The fashion world is mourning the loss of Virgil Abloh, but one cannot help but think back to Alexander McQueen’s visionary work.
McQueen invited double amputee Aimee Mullinas to his Spring Collection in 1999. The intricately carved legs of her wooden legs were worn by McQueen as she walked down the runway. The legs, made from ash and decorated with vines, leaves and other details, were designed to look like Victorian knee-length boots.
After suffering from fibular hemomelia, Mullins had both of her legs amputated below knee. She rose to fame after the McQueen show and has been at forefront of fashion since then. Mullins was the first to realize that amputees could have different types of prosthetics, and she had 12 pairs. McQueen adored her until his death in 2010.
Debenhams, a UK department store chain was one of the first to hire a disabled model. They broke new ground with Shannon Murray, a wheelchair-bound model in their 2010 advertising campaign.
Fashion that adapts
Alexandra Kutas was inspired by McQueen, Mullins and didn’t let her disability stop her dreaming of becoming a runway model. In 2015, she was the first wheelchair-bound runway model to be featured during Ukraine Fashion Week. She unveiled “Break Your Chains”, a photo exhibition with Andrei Sarymsakov a few months later to dispel negative stereotypes and promote inclusion for people with disabilities. In association with Tommy Hilfiger, she participated in a fashion show and produced the first ever fashion video featuring disabled models.
Hilfiger was among the first to recognize the potential of adaptable clothing, and launched Tommy Hilfiger adaptive in 2017. This market is expected to reach 400 billion US dollars in 2026.
Aaron Rose Philip, an Antiguan-American model, became the first transgender, black and physically disabled model ever to be signed by a major modeling agency in 2018. She has since been a model in numerous high-fashion photo shoots and campaigns. Philip was the exclusive Moschino spring/summer 2022 model. This made her the first wheelchair-bound model to walk for a luxury fashion brand.
Expect to see more models such as Alexandra Kutas or Aaron Rose Philip in the Fall 2022 runway season.