Models of Diversity is the campaign for more diversity in the models we see every day. Models of Diversity call on the fashion, beauty and marketing industries to recognise the beauty in people of all races, ages, shapes, sizes and abilities. Find them online http://modelsofdiversity.org
The charity has the mission of the promotion of equality and diversity for the public benefit by promoting greater diversity in the fashion, beauty and media industries, where people of minority ethnic origin, older people, larger and smaller people, people with a disability, and non-binary gender people are under-represented.
Clearly, not just anyone can be a model; a successful model must have a special beauty, confidence, professionalism, ability to take direction, even artistic awareness. But no one with those talents should be excluded from the industry on arbitrary grounds. And no one should feel shut out from the modern presentation of beauty.
Nearly one in five people of working age (7 million, or 18.6%) in Great Britain have a disability. All of us need clothes and many of us like wearing clothes that make us look and feel good.
Angel Sinclair (not pictured), the founder of Models of Diversity is a former model herself. She founded the campaign after appearing on Gok’s Miss Naked Beauty in 2008. Angel was struck by the great variety of beautiful women participating in the event and how that contrasted with the narrow range we see in the fashion industry. That’s when she decided, to promote using models that reflect the diversity in society, in race, shape, age and ability.
So MoD campaign at fashion events, hold street surveys, offer workshops and vigorously promote a more diverse range of models in the media and social networking.
MoD have found from their surveys that the public is in favour of more diversity, so their ambition is to change how the fashion industry thinks and responds to the needs of all the fashion-buying public.
Angel is extremely passionate about the business even after 20 years, and feels “disabled people need to fight for themselves not to be ostracised in the fashion industry. The US do use more disabled models, and this has been done occasionally in the UK (e.g. by Debenhams) but it is not permanently in profile, as I believe it should be”.
Two disabled models walked in the opening show of the London Fashion Week in February. This was a significant event for disabled models. The British design duo Teatum Jones cast Kelly Knox, who was born without the lower half of her right arm and Jack Eyers, 27, whose leg was amputated when he was 16, to model in their AW17 collection.
© JOHN PHILLIPS VIA GETTY IMAGES © Models of Diversity
Angel says “Castings should allow disabled models to apply, and casting directors do not actively look for models with diversity (including race, age and size) or consider access needs. Plus size models are becoming more frequent, like Ashley Graham from the US, but it is still considered a novelty on the catwalk”.
This reminds me of the recent uproar towards Vogue India, upon the occasion of celebrating its 10th Anniversary year, decided not to feature an Indian model on its cover, to celebrate all that is awesome about India and its fashion scene, and chose Pepsi fail girl Kendall Jenner. There are no words.
Angel “wants to tear it down this year. We have to be persistent to open those doors, as people are so closed minded to it. If they truly believed in it, it would have happened by now. It is appalling people are not included at all levels. This includes shops without adaptable clothing lines, to shops which are difficult to navigate or may not have access at all, and the shop staff not trained in disability awareness. However, without a consistent change of mindset across designers, fashion houses, casting directors, modelling agencies combined with education of the general public, having disabled people regularly seen in campaigns is taking longer than I had hoped for, and we continue to push for this”.
I spoke with Mary Russell, a regular model for MoD since 2014, has been on global catwalks. Mary is also disability awareness advocate and has featured in multiple articles and documentaries on C4 and Channel 5. She is a wonderfully warm person, and as a Little Person and Woman of Colour has had to tolerate years of abuse from the public just by going about her normal life. Modelling was always her career goal. Mary shared her thoughts with me, “Many people agree diversity in the industry is ground breaking and amazing, but change is very slow. The decision making is mostly done by older men, on women’s issues. Pitches are made at size 6 or 8, when the UK average is now 16, to start trends which suit the designers narrative”.
Wow, no wonder so many of us may comfort eat, as we will never be accepted as we are by the designers. I understand the models are there to only carry clothes but maybe we could (radical thought) approach this holistically and dress humans as we are, as part of the wonderfully artistic creative process, rather than encourage the models to slim themselves to invisibility.
Mary took part in a ground breaking campaign run by Enhance the UK, called Undressing Disability, which aims to raise standards in sexual health and sexual awareness for disabled people. The campaign focuses on raising standards in key areas: Inclusive sex and relationship education, meeting the sexual needs of people with disabilities in Residential Care, professionals working with disabled people to consider sexual needs as part of their practice.
Mary continues “Models of Diversity has been fundamental in encouraging men and women with the will and talent, to become models. There are so many people telling you that you can’t be a model, Models of Diversity is giving people the confidence to prove that they can do it”.
Models Of Diversity also untilise disabled photographers like Alessandro Capoccetti, below.
This happened in May, which is a little ray of hope, Ethiopian designers came together in April to dress models with various disabilities.
Actor and model Sabela Kadir is feels more confident in the look designed for her by Tigest Demesse. See the catwalk show here: http://www.ntd.tv/2017/04/24/59457/
And in Canada more recently
Cur8able are a company promoting adapted clothing for disabled people, amongst their other projects. Check them out here:
MIT have some projects to get high design onto the agenda, their mission is to make style accessible to people of all abilities, http://www.openstylelab.com
However there are still very few designers and manufacturers producing affordable and attractive clothing.
The picture below very much sums up how I feel after learning about the fashion industry. Angel Sinclair, her team, models and partners work extremely hard and after 20 years some progress has been made in this industry. For the reasons noted above by Angel (designers, fashion houses, casting directors, modelling agencies, need to drive and lead the change at their level) and it seems to me that this likely to be another 20 years away. Education is key here. Disability is still considered the poor cousin in diversity compared to gender, race and sexuality. Only when exclusion based on disability causes as much outrage as other protected characteristics in the Equality Act, will we seen a change in the fashion industry and across the public perception.