Fashion for people with disabilities celebrated at Australian Fashion Week

Paralympian Rheed McCracken at the finale show at AAFW.

For the first time ever, a runway show for people with disabilities will feature at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) in May. 

The consumer show will put the Adaptive Clothing Collective in the spotlight, a new group of three adaptive fashion labels which aim to “bring strength and unity of message and voice to mainstream media, retail and fashion industries”. Fashion brand Christina Stephens, led by Jessie Sadler, is one of the founding members of the group. 

This year, AAFW has again worked with disability consultants Lisa Cox and Nikki Hind to ensure the inclusivity of the event, from the programming to the runway shows. 

Last year was the first time models with disabilities featured at AAFW, including Paralympians Reed McCracken, Sarah Walsh and Michael Roeger. The event was faced with controversy when several of the models struggled to go down the runway in the closing show.

“It was an incredible experience to be a part of a fashion show…when I was growing up, I knew that I always wanted to be a Paralympian and represent Australia. But I’d seen that on TV and I’d seen people who had gone to the Paralympics just like me, but never once saw someone with a disability walking the catwalk at Fashion Week,” Walsh said in an interview with Athletics NSW after the event.

“To be able to pave the way for the next generation of people with a disability, to be able to do something like that and make more worlds and more organisations more inclusive is pretty special.”

First Nations to the front

AAFW has focused on becoming more diverse and inclusive recently and this year, Indigenous designers will make a return to the event in a wider capacity. 

First Nations Fashion and Design will kick off AAFW with a Welcome to Country, while a runway show from the Indigenous Fashion Projects will feature on the program, including brands such as Indii, Kirrikin, Liandra Swim, Native Swimwear, Ngali and MAARA Collective. First Nations Fashion and Design will also present a discussion called Yours, Mine and Ours and feature in the multi-brand closing show.

“We have a global platform and we’ve always leveraged that platform to shine a light on emerging talent as well our established designers and the best Australia has to offer,” vice president and managing director at IMG Natalie Xenita told Inside Retail. 

“It makes sense for us to really make sure we use our platform to support First Nations designers as well. We want to put a  spotlight on them and there have been some amazing things that have come out of it in the last year. We’re really harnessing that and building on that success to do things even bigger and better this year.” 

Afterpay Australian Fashion Week will run from 9-13 May at Carriageworks in Sydney and virtually at, featuring both industry and consumer events. 

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