Model Madeline Stuart in a bridal-like gown on the runway. Photo: Getty Images
The most buzz-worthy model at New York Fashion Week isn’t Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, or Karlie Kloss: it’s an 18-year-old Australian who just got her start less than a year ago. On Monday, Madeline Stuart made her debut at NYFW walking in FTL Moda’s Spring 2016 runway show.
Madeline Stuart in shorts and a halter top with two male models covered in paint. Photo: Getty Images
Taking place in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Station, Stuart, who has Down syndrome, wore three different looks. The first was the most casual, with her wearing iridescent shorts and a flowy halter tank with a psychedelic pattern. She also wore white and gold platform shoes with her auburn hair pulled up into a messy bun and a blue butterfly design painted on her face. She held hands with two male models completely covered in blue paint with a large jelly fishes on their chests. The next look was a futuristic bridal gown with a blue and gold bodice with a torn ruffle skirt. Lastly, for the finale she walked out with designers Hendrik Vermeulen and Jean-Daniel Meyer-Vermeulen wearing a black T-shirt with the message “I Am NYFW” on the back.
Madeline Stuart with Hendrik Vermeulen and Jean-Daniel Meyer-Vermeulen closing out the show. Photo: Getty Images
Stuart shot to fame recently after her mother, Roseanne Stuart, shared images on Facebook with the hopes of shifting people’s perceptions of what it’s like to live with a disability, which subsequently went viral. Since, Madeline has landed multiple advertising campaigns and international acclaim for drawing attention to the cause. "I think it’s amazing that she’s been given this opportunity. It’s a fantastic platform for us to get our beliefs across on inclusion and disability,” Roseanne shared backstage with AFP. “She likes to be in the spotlight and she likes people to notice her and she thinks she’s pretty cool.“
Rebekah Marine backstage. Photo: Trevor Collins/AFP
Madeline, the second model with Downs syndrome to walk at NYFW (the first was Jamie Brewer in February at Carrie Hammer’s presentation), was joined by wheelchair-bound Leslie Irby in a burlap dress, Rebekah Marine, who has a bionic arm and wore a white and gold gown, and others in wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, and using crutches. Marine, 28, was born without a right arm and is a car saleswoman in New Jersey. “I think a lot of brands are very hesitant to include models that aren’t necessarily five nine, skinny, blue eyed, blonde,” she said. "So it’s a challenge but we’re definitely making progress and it’s so awesome to be a part of that.”
For the epic show, FTL Moda partnered with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. “We share their steadfast commitment to raising awareness for the paralysis community and together, we will break down barriers to achieve total inclusion for models living with disabilities across the most prestigious runways of the world,” FTL Moda producer Ilaria Niccolini said. “By challenging the stereotypes surrounding disability, we will truly create fashion free from confines.”