Tokyo Fashion Week and it’s as delightfully outlandish, creative and interesting as you would expect to be. Indeed while we’re all for ‘wearability’ sometimes it’s just fun to see a woman sashay down the catwalk with teddy bears in her hair, you know?
However the best thing about Tokyo Fashion Week so far is not the bat wing shoes or the ensemble made entirely of pillows (hats off to you, Christian Dada), but the Tenba collection by Takafumi Tsuruta. The Japanese designer sent models in wheelchairs and prosthetic legs down the runway to model his clothes, including Paralympic athletes including snowboarder Mika Abe (middle), and gold medal swimmer Rina Akiyama.
Tsuruta’s use of models with disabilities is not a token effort, he has long designed clothes for people with disabilities, as well as genderless. He does this in a practical way, such as coats with magnetic buttons, making them more accessible and he also designed a wedding dress for a bride in a wheelchair. Which is a real, practical and truly empowering step forward when it comes to inclusiveness in the notoriously restrictive fashion industry.
The visibility of people that don’t fit the ‘norm’ are incredibly important, especially in the fashion industry.
Earlier this year first model with Down Syndrome to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week, American Horror actress Jamie Brewer, made her debut at the Carrie Hammer show – another designer who not only uses models from all kinds of backgrounds, but designs with them in mind too.
The previous year Hammer used Dr. Danielle Sheypuk, who uses a wheelchair, in her show. The overwhelmingly positive reaction was gratifying to the designer. However she says she never set out to make a point.
We were never trying to make a statement,” Hammer told Time magazine.
“We don’t think of [Sheypuk] as being in a wheelchair. We don’t define her that way … but it went really viral. We got hundreds of emails for girls and their moms thanking us.”