The fashion industry certainly isn’t known for its inclusiveness. Adoration of genetically blessed individuals and designing pretty clothes specifically for them? Got that down pat. Yet over the past few years, calls for diversity have gotten so loud that a few are actually doing something about it.
Beyond just casting Ashley Graham and Candice Huffine (no offense to them — they’re beautiful and doing so much to inspire body positivity), London-based brand Teatum Jones is taking the call to action seriously and making clothes for an underserved community.
At the start of London Fashion Week on Friday, Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones highlighted disabled individuals with a collection inspired by “a love of human stories and rejecting the idea of the perfect human form.”
“It’s not about providing or developing product for able bodied or disabled bodied groups or consumers,” the designers clarified to Yahoo Style over email. “It’s about listening. It’s about engaging in the practical experiences that allow a conversation to develop between our two communities.”
The clothes, made in a variety of materials from PVC to heritage wools and silk satin crepes, are undoubtedly sexy and include both women’s wear and menswear. Yet while the button-down blouses with elongated sleeves, tailored trousers, and printed coats were supposed to be the focal point of the presentation, it was the models wearing the items that really stood out.
Not only did the designers talk the talk; they walked the walk — very literally — by casting Kelly Knox and Jack Eyers, both amputees.
Knox, a winner on Britain’s Missing Top Model, tells Yahoo Style, “When you think about diversity in fashion, you think about size, color, maybe age, but never disability.” She added, “Disability has to be part of the diversity agenda for the evolution of fashion.”
“Teatum Jones are leading the way to a more inclusive, diverse, and beautiful industry,” Knox says. “I have never felt disabled by my impairment, only by the attitudes of society and lack of opportunities because of my body difference.”
The show was meant to reclaim that, with phrases such as “We are perfect because of our imperfections” and “You are beautiful” dropped into the soundtrack. Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech also played over original music. “It was that moment, when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back,” the actress’s voice intoned. “When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
According to Knox, Teatum Jones’s show is a major step in the right direction. But Eyers, who became the first amputee male model to hit the runway at New York Fashion Week in 2015, hopes that it’s something even bigger.
“I believe this experience has been a golden string to my bow,” he says. “I believe this is the start of a change in the fashion industry.”