Fashion holds a powerful platform within society, with a historic ability to push boundaries and challenge perceptions. It’s an industry that’s wonderfully celebratory of self-expression – this becomes irrelevant however, if we only allow a certain spectrum of society to have access to it. There are currently 13.9 million disabled people in the UK and an estimated one billion worldwide, yet disabled people are often ignored in the world of fashion.

The industry has had to address its problems with diversity and shift its parameters to celebrate the varying identities of its consumers. Fantastic steps forward have been made in the representation of race, sexuality, age and gender. Now, disability is fashion’s final frontier. It’s thought that the collective spending power of disabled people – known as the Purple Pound, is worth £249bn to the UK economy. Brands perhaps need to realise it makes little financial sense to accommodate the able-bodied consumer only.

A world where shop access predetermines what disabled women can and cannot wear is neither a modern nor inclusive one. We are finally beginning to lift the veiled curtain on disabled people’s lives – Selma Blair a made defiant red carpet debut after her MS diagnosis and models with disabilities have featured in campaigns for River Island, Benefit and ASOS. Yet, in a world so innovative in the genius of design, with finger print activated phones and talking ‘virtual assistants’ we should question why design that benefits disabled people, such as adaptive clothing is not the norm.


Lotyy Jackson a disability patient explains

“Fashion is a powerful way to explore identity, culture and celebrate our differences. Despite the fact 20% of people in the UK have disabilities, disabled models are largely absent from fashion campaigns and catwalks. When brands look to improve disability representation, it’s essential they include those with disabilities in the process.”


Nicola Lavin another disability patient  said Being chronically ill or disabled is a part of you, but not the only part. The desire to look nice and express your personality doesn’t go away when you get sick.” Nicola suffers from Lyme disease and explains, “Fashion for me also needs to be functional. I suffer with temperature irregularities so need clothes to be warm. I gained five stone due to severe inflammation, so need soft, comfortable fabrics with high waistbands that don’t dig in. This is difficult to find on the high street and will often cost more in specialist shops.”

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