Changing the world
There was a ringing in my ears, I couldn’t hold a single thought and my right hand could barely grip my cane. I couldn’t help but feel like my entire life, the highs, the lows, the lessons learned, had all lead me to this very moment; The moment I would step out onto an international runway and play a small role in changing the world.
There were millions of things that lead me to being involved in the inclusive runway but Bezgraniz Couture was the catalyst that got me to Los Angeles in October. Bezgraniz Couture is engaged in the creation of functional modern clothes and accessories for people with non-traditional body types. Their work is based around universal design. They were featured at Los Angeles Fashion Week where myself and nearly 20 others of mixed abilities took to the runway.
The term “universal design” was coined by the architect Ronald L. Mace to describe the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone.
My passion lies in advocating for universal design. If we can implement universal design concepts into areas like education, transport, media, town planning, technology, fashion and into the products and industries we utilise every day, our lifestyles will change, the world will change. These concepts are based on a fundamental understanding that people are different and that no one should be left behind because of something as simple as circumstance.
Universal design and inclusive fashion is the future. It has to be. As it stands we have 7.4 billion people on earth. The numbers we have tell us that 1.27 billion of us identify as disabled and our family and friends equal about 2.35 billion people. That means half of the population are effected by disability but only a handful of leaders in various industries are successfully integrating universal design concepts into their work.
Bezgraniz Couture is one of those leaders. They not only design and produce amazing pieces but they are educating as they go. Bezgraniz currently works with The British Higher School of Art and Design where they educate fashion design students on universal design and inclusive fashion. The British Higher School of Art and Design is now the only school in the world that has inclusive fashion as core curriculum.
While in LA I was also invited to a day long forum to discuss several topics relating to rebranding disability for a global market, specifically in fashion but also about inclusion and diversity in media. This forum is believed to be the first of it’s kind and was run by Bezgraniz Couture and sponsored by Mercedes Benz.
“It’s so great to see you all here today. I’m not sure if you know this but not one of you look the same” Kurt Yeager.
The entire day was extraordinary. The discussion topics were necessary and the panelist’s responses were insightful. Kurt Yeager is an actor who happens to be disabled and based in Hollywood. Kurt spoke on the panel “Disability in Hollywood”. I loved everything that was said during that discussion and I learned a lot about the strides that have already been taken to improve disability representation in Hollywood, however I just couldn’t get over Kurt’s opening line. It’s so simple, so universal and in that moment I could see our global rebrand.
I got to the end of the runway and had no idea what to do. I felt self conscious and rushed. Just as I began to turn around and make my way back I made eye contact with a person in the front row, he said “you are perfect”. He made me smile and all of a sudden I remembered who I was and what I was there for.
My final steps were filled with purpose. The purpose of being a beautiful disabled woman challenging perceptions and stereotypes. The purpose of being a role model for other people in the disabled community. The purpose of being an advocate for inclusion and universal design. The purpose of changing the world.