#Iamvisible: Grazia UK’s Big Fashion Issue celebrates disability, the most underrepresented consumer group - By Lottie Jackson
“I decided I’d have to change perceptions of disabled people in fashion – to show we can be desirable, too. Growing up, I bought loads of magazines and never once saw myself represented. Today it must be even worse for young girls, because social media peddles this notion of ‘perfection’. If non-disabled girls are feeling the pressure to look a certain way, imagine how disabled girls, who can’t hide behind a filter, must feel scrolling through Instagram?” Kelly Knox, friend of Fashion Roundtable and speaker at our inaugural ‘Body Image and Identity Politics’ event explains to Grazia UK.
Over the past year, the fashion industry has made huge strides to becoming more inclusive, committing itself to represent a wide spectrum of genders, ethnicities and cultures. However, there is one consumer group that remains severely underrepresented- individuals with disabilities. The release of Grazia’s Big Fashion Issue this week aimed to address this exclusion. Its front cover brought together five women, among them an athlete, dance champion, designer and full-time model – all of whom have an impairment or condition but feel completely empowered by the clothes they wear. It showcased how being fashion-conscious and having a disability are not (and have never been) mutually exclusive.
Shockingly, the last time a major publication featured a disabled female model on its cover was in 1998 with Nick Knight and Katy England’s Fashion-Able cover of Dazed & Confused. Guest edited by Alexander McQueen and starring Paralympic athlete Aimee Mullins, the issue tackled this previously unchartered territory within fashion. It was inspired by the late designer’s belief that beauty can be found in extreme difference or individuality. So 20 years later, why is this move still considered ground-breaking?
Although Grazia’s cover is a powerful symbol and gestures a movement towards disability diversity, the fashion industry still has a long way to go before it can be fully inclusive to those with disabilities. In addition to addressing negative attitudes and misconceptions, there are many practical issues facing disabled consumers as cover star Monique Jarrett illustrates in the accompanying feature ‘We Deserve To Feel Part Of Fashion’: “I’ve always loved fashion but I often have to appreciate it from afar. It’s always the same: I see something I like in a shop window, go inside and ask if they have disabled changing rooms and watch the attendant’s face fall as she tells me – no they don’t. It’s deflating but I force myself to be overly polite as I watch them freak out and try and get me into a regular changing room – where I already know my wheelchair won’t fit.”
This issue is aiming to draw attention to the importance of having all types of bodies reflected in fashion media. As Monique Jarrett says “We can all relate to fashion, don’t leave us out of the conversation.”