A diverse new start for London Fashion Week

Guest blog by Laura Richter

Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, Penny Mordaunt MP, is working to highlight a range of disability issues and what they mean for business. This includes recruiting disability champions in ten key industries, from transport to retail, to serve as public advocates for disability in their sectors.

To coincide with London Fashion Week, Laura Richter blogs about the importance of representing disability in fashion.

Laura, a fashion graduate from Huddersfield University, was named Muscular Dystrophy UK’s Trailblazer of the Year in 2016.

Fashion is not just about clothes. It would not be classed as an industry if it were. Fashion is much more than that- it is a lifestyle that represents our society.

London Fashion Week (LFW) has commenced yet again. A yearly tradition that all involved feel to be as important as the start of the New Year, the week heralds a new season of fashion to follow, a celebration of the achievements fashion has made and a forecast of another successful and busy year ahead.

Some time after 9:30am on Friday 17 February, many of us felt a breath of fresh air. Much like the promise of a summer to come, the Teatum Jones runway show subtly promised a new and improved future for London Fashion Week.

So what was this breath of fresh air in this breathless, chaotic, thrilling time? LFW has finally represented diversity on the runway.

Teatum Jones is one of the first designers ever to include physical disability on a LFW catwalk. Their opening show on Friday featured Kelly Knox and Jack Eyers, two talented models who also have disabilities. Teatum Jones is made up of two brilliant minds; Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones.

Teatum Jones is not only a designer, but a luxury designer. Although steps have been taken within high street fashion to be inclusive of disabled customers, the fashion industry as a whole will not be able to move forward until high-end designers begin to show some acknowledgement of diversity within their brands.

Disabled consumers are said to have a combined spending power of over £249 billion in the UK and the fashion industry is missing out on that income by ignoring a valuable consumer.

The reason disability is yet to be accepted within fashion is because the push for change is not coming from the most powerful level of the industry, the high-end designers.

When more high-end designers start to realise the importance of what Teatum Jones are doing, change will start. Future designers will aspire to the creation of a modern fashion industry.

As a disabled fashion graduate, I have developed a conflicting relationship with the fashion industry over the past five years. I love how fashion has the ability to give anyone confidence or help to express themselves.

On the other hand, I never buy designer clothes. I have never had any desire to buy them, the way that my fellow course mates would. As I studied for a degree in Fashion Design with Marketing and Production, I soon realised that this was because I was not being pitched to as one of their consumers.

Laura Richter Graduate Collection. The University of Huddersfield.

Embarking on my final year of study, I felt rejected by the industry that I was studying to be a part of. I wanted to prove that the relationship between disability and fashion could be different.

This led me to developing a graduate collection that considered wheelchair users. Not that the collection was only for disabled people, but that it reached a wider consumer market and told them that this clothing is designed with you in mind.

Laura Richter Graduate Fashion Show. The University of Huddersfield.

Teatum Jones’ approach in using models of diversity, not as a spectacle but as a part of the society in which their collection is designed for, is refreshing.

They are a role model brand for the rest of the industry designers. It is a step in the right direction towards disabled consumers being welcomed as valuable, alongside all other consumers of the fashion industry.

After achieving a first class fashion degree, I’ve grown knowledgeable about fashion. I believe fashion is not what we can be told but what we can tell. It is the personification of becoming one’s true self- meaning there is always room for growth.

Muscular Dystrophy UK Trailblazers Young Person’s Conference. Left to right: Robert Meadowcroft, Chief Executive of MDUK, Laura Richter, Trailblazer of the Year, Penny Mordaunt MP, Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health

The Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, is championing accessibility and inclusion across a range of sectors. Find out more about her thoughts on the fashion industry here

Learn more about Laura’s work here

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