'We need to embrace diversity' Meet the women hoping to change the face of fashion forever

·Contributor, Yahoo Life UK
This is what diversity looks like
This is what diversity looks like

The fashion industry has been doing its best to be more inclusive of late. But despite taking some teetering steps towards more diverse catwalks, more needs to be done to ensure there is runway representation for everyone. Because no matter your size, shape, skin colour or story, fashion is for everybody.

That’s the message Toronto-based designer, Lesley Hampton was aiming to highlight with her Be Body Aware showing at Vancouver Fashion Week. The designer, who is famous for featuring a diverse range of models in her catwalk shows, made her most powerful statement yet by casting Boston bombing survivor Adrianne Haslet to open the show.

The Be Body Aware Project was the brainchild of International plus-size model Tia Duffy who joined Adrianne to strut her stuff on the catwalk. The campaign hopes to highlight models of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, but it also aims to offer some desperately needed representation to people, like Adrianne, who have been affected by adversity.

Adrianne was so severely injured in the Boston bombing that she ultimately lost her leg. Not that she’s letting it hold her back. Now, by teaming up with Lesly and Tia, Adrianne hopes to help them sprinkle a little bit of body-positivity over the fashion industry and prove that catwalk runways are for every body.

Yahoo Style UK caught up with the inspiring trio to find out about their grand plan to change the face of fashion forever…

Adrianne slays the catwalk at Vancouver Fashion Week
Adrianne slays the catwalk at Vancouver Fashion Week

The Survivor – Adrianne

It is my life’s ambition to show other amputees that they can do anything. We are not broken, we are simply missing pieces. Once we have that piece, our options are limitless, as you see.

I was nervous, yet excited before hitting the catwalk. Lesley makes all of her models feel right at home, and moods are contagious. It was an honour to walk with her ‘Wolfpack’ as she calls us. We were jumping up and down and cheering each other on the entire time. It felt incredible!

My running blade had to be balanced with a kitten heel! I was walking in my running blade, which I usually only run in. The blade gives for shock absorption when running. This means that it is longer than my other leg. So I had to have a kitten heel and make sure I was walking with enough weight on my blade side to not give too much and have a limp. Tricky, but I wanted to show the dress off as best I could!

It felt empowering to be part of the show. I wasn’t only walking for Lesley, I was walking for countless amputees (there are 507 new amputees every day in the US) that were searching for some type of hope that they too could reach their goals. Whatever goals they may be.

Bomb survivor Adrianne gets her glam on for the show
Bomb survivor Adrianne gets her glam on for the show

Catwalks shouldn’t purely be representative of one type of person. If you look around do you see diversity? I do! Not just me, but the people around me. It is not why do we think it is important that the catwalk becomes more representative of the diverse, it is why does the catwalk have to be so representative of one type of human?

Body confidence doesn’t come easy. But you do not need to be perfect to inspire others. Let people be inspired by how you handle your imperfections. In a society of self-doubt and body shaming, loving yourself is seen as a rebellious act and I love rebelling!

I am not looking for “the stereotypical model” to step aside. I love models of all shapes and sizes. This includes the tall, thin, stunning models that have worked so unbelievably hard at their art and become supermodels. It’s not about replacing them, we’re looking to cheer them on, too, as we, with all body types, walk beside them. It is not as much change, just more invitations to empower each other as society becomes more diverse.

Enough with the pity party. That’s how I’d like to see society’s attitude towards disability change. Anything we can do, you can do too. Look at it that way instead of the other way around. Life is about perspective. There is no us and them. There is only we. Lesley is proving that, and so am I.

Plus-size model Tia Duffy struts her stuff for Lesley Hampton at Vancouver Fashion Week
Plus-size model Tia Duffy struts her stuff for Lesley Hampton at Vancouver Fashion Week

The Plus-size model – Tia

I became a plus size model at the age of 21. After years of feeling like I was too big to be a straight size model I was signed as a plus size/curvy model. I am in between sizes at a UK 12-14 so some clients consider me plus size and others consider me too small for plus size. I constantly felt like an ‘in between’ model and that is why I founded the Be Body Aware Project. To celebrate all bodies.

I try to ignore body shamers. Every time I give an interview people write comments saying “she’s not plus size” or “Does she know how ridiculous she looks” was a recent one. Through the project I try to spread awareness about the language we use towards other peoples bodies. Instead of hitting back at them I educate people and put my energy into something positive rather than feeding on the negative.

The term plus-size doesn’t bother me. When I first start modelling ten years ago we didn’t have that term. The it became a buzz word and it was a very positive thing. It’s only in recent years people want to drop the plus but I don’t mind being called plus sized or curvy. All bodies should be accepted in fashion and the media regardless of what we are called.

The body positive movement can change the face of fashion forever. The more movements we have the more brands see the movement and start booking more diverse models and focus their attention on diversity. When I started Be Body Aware brands and designers were skeptical but now they come to me to collaborate.

In order to really change fashion we need to change what we see on the runway. It is the catwalk that is most likely to use one shape and one-size models. All of the models have been identical in the past for some of the worlds top designers. Why do we all want to look the same? Every body is different. We want to send a message to the world that all different heights, weights, shapes, ages, ethnicities can look good on the runway.

Is this the most diverse catwalk ever?
Is this the most diverse catwalk ever?

I would love to see all brands embrace diversity. I would especially like designers to start following Michael Kors (using Ashley Graham). We need more labels, more designers and the marketing teams of major brands to realise that fashion needs to reflect reality.

Body shaming thin models is not ok either! I started Be Body aware to show the general public that all bodies are different and beautiful.

All bodies are in fashion. That’s the message I want to convey. Do not ever change to fit someone else perception of beauty, create your own.

The Designer – Lesley

I want to see a more diverse fashion future. To show future generations of models that they don’t need to be unhealthy and starve themselves to become a model, and to show society as a whole that they do not need to fit into a specific, often unobtainable, ideal to buy looks from the runway and from my brand. The trends in fashion start with us as fashion designers, and change with us.

The health of models should be put first and foremost. As that ultimately translates to the health of the viewer or buyer, and onto society. Whether mental health, physical health, or emotional health, I want the fashion industry to understand that the talents that showcase our design work is a representation of our brand, and has a direct correlation to how society’s body image could be conceived.

Society needs to have a kinder attitude towards their own body. And in turn be more welcoming of change of healthier models on the runway, curvier models on the runway, and more diverse bodies on the runway.

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