Ableism in the fashion industry: what needs to be done?

In the last few years, e-commerce images have become less photoshopped and more realistic. We are starting to see the human form represented on a relatable level with features like cellulite and stretch marks being embraced rather than hidden.

With body positivity becoming more prevalent online, retail companies had to up their game and give the people what they want: diverse, authentic representation.

Last week Asos changed the landscape even further by introducing Natasha Gouri, a model with a cochlear implant. It came with no surprise that Twitter was flooded with praise and appreciation from those who feel represented and celebrated through Gouri.

But is it enough?

There’s no doubt that acceptance of marginalised identities and body types in fashion representation is improving, however for those with disabilities, could retailers be doing more? For many, the answer is yes. 

We’re now at the stage where those with disabilities need to be recognised. In an interview with Who What Wear, model Aaron Philip, the first Black, trans woman to be signed by a major agency,  explained how “the image of a disabled person and their body in high fashion is almost nonexistent.” She goes on to describe the struggle of starting conversations about those with disabilities in the industry and the need for more fair representation. 

Similarly, Madaline Stuart, who has been dubbed by the media as, “the world’s most famous model with down syndrome”, wants the fashion industry from catwalk to magazine to reflect our society and the diversity of people that make it up. 

It’s becoming clear that we do not want those who model the clothes we buy to always be ‘perfect’; we want models to reflect the society we live in and normalise and celebrate the presence of disabled people in such a competitive industry.

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Phoebe Lucas

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August 2021
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