Brands are increasingly embracing inclusivity

In 1999, McQueen had the foresight to invite amputee Aimee Mullins to the runway show of his spring collection. She walked the catwalk with her wooden legs. The legs, carved from ash, were designed as Victorian knee-high boots with a heel, pointed toe and a slender ankle, decorated with vines and leaves.

Both of Mullins’ legs below the knee had to be amputated due to fibular hemimelia. After McQueen’s show, she became a star and has been known in the fashion world ever since. Mullins introduced the world to the idea that an amputee could have a variety of prosthetics for different occasions, and she owned 12 different pairs of her own. She remained one of McQueen’s favorite muses until his death in 2010.


One of the first retail chains to book a model with a disability was British department store chain Debenhams. In their 2010 advertising campaign, they broke new ground by showing model Shannon Murray in her wheelchair.

Alexandra Kutas op de Fedor Vozianov catwalkshow in 2017. Credits: Uly Pashkova/Commons Wikimedia

Adaptive mode

Inspired by McQueen and Mullins, Alexandra Kutas didn’t let her disability stop her from dreaming of a life as a runway model. She can rightfully claim the title of the world’s first catwalk model in a wheelchair at Ukraine Fashion Week in 2015. A few months later, she unveiled a photo exhibition called “Break Your Chains,” along with photographer Andrei Sarymsakov, in an attempt to break society’s stereotypes and negative views about people with disabilities. She put me on a show with Tommy Hilfiger and helped produce the world’s first fashion video featuring disabled models.

Hilfiger was one of the first brands to realize the potential of adaptive mode understood, by launching Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive in 2017. It is a market that is expected to grow to $400 billion by 2026.

Aaron Rose Philip/Moschino SS2022/Catwalk Pictures

In 2018, Antiguan-American model Aaron Rose Philip became the first black, transgender, and physically disabled model ever to be represented by a major modeling agency and since then she has modeled in several major high fashion photo shoots and campaigns. In 2021, Philip debuted as an exclusive model for Moschino’s Spring/Summer 2022 fashion show – making her the first model in a wheelchair to walk for a major luxury brand.

With the runway season for FW22 just around the corner, one can expect more inclusivity in the models, in the form of, for example, Alexandra Kutas or Aaron Rose Philip.

This article first appeared on FashionUnited.UK, then translated and edited into Dutch by Ilona Fonteijn.

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