The Fashion Show with a Unique Twist

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The Disabled and Sexy Fashion Show raised money for the Jennifer Trust, which supports people witth Spinal Muscular Atrophy. SMA is a ‘recessive genetic disease’ that causes weakness of the muscles. There are four types of the condition, the first being the most severe and the fourth starting in adult life. No form of SMA affects a person’s mental capacity in any way; the effects are only physical.

Oozing sophistication, glamour and elegance, Tuesday 25th October’s event at Notting Hill’s Tabernacle was, in many ways, a fashion show like any other. Only this show had a fundamental and unique difference. The excited audience gathered that night to see Disabled and Sexy, the fashion show during which wheel-chair bound models showed off a range of clothing and even lingerie, all to raise money for The Jennifer Trust and ultimately help others affected by Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

The inspiring 21 year-old Tess Daly, both the stylist of two of the catwalks, and founder of Disabled and Sexy, has not let this physically impairing condition stand in the way of her ambitions. Shows such as Gok Wan’s How to Look Good Naked With a Difference have played a part in igniting Tess’ fashion-related career ambitions. She has recently done a short placement working on Gok’s Fashion Fix and describes it as ‘an absolutely amazing experience, which has really given me the bug to get stuck in to my future career’.

Explaining her thinking behind the success that was Disabled and Sexy, Tess says ‘I wanted to revisit the idea of disability within fashion and show that people with even the most severe of disabilities can be sexy, follow fashion and display individuality. My hope is that if the idea that people with disabilities can be attractive, confident and sexy is promoted to the public, stereotypes may be overcome, and gradually beliefs will be changed which will result in the fashion industry following’.

In hindsight, after attending the show I tell you that Disabled and Sexy could not have been better co-ordinated to fulfil these aims. Upon arriving at the beautifully decorated Tabernacle with fellow student journalist Almaz Ohene, I could immediately tell that the event was going to be professional, a far cry from a show that initially lacked the funding to even take place. In fact, the shows funding was helped in part by the generous donation of Roisin Issacs from Channel Four’s Secret Millionaire show.

The host Jonathan Phang, a top stylist, introduced the evening and reminded everyone of its important cause. Reinforcing Tess’ views, he places emphasis on ‘a deeper understanding about the prejudices young, beautiful, disabled women have to overcome every day’.

The Debenhams male collection kick-started the evening’s catwalks, and really showed off Tess’ talent for styling each model to look fantastic. This was followed by the Bespoke collection by ‘Too Many    Dresses’ (stylists Zoe Elley and Alice Bogunovic, pictured below), the dresses were beautiful and the sky-scraper heels were to die for. Altogether, Too Many Dresses produced ten stunning outfits for the catwalk.

The short break to follow featured, to my surprise, a brief video of Channel Four’s Jon Snow, who talked about SMA and The Jennifer Trust. There was not long, however, until the start of the next catwalk, a sexy display of lingerie-clad models, some of which were able-bodied. Tess had incorporated lots of bright, attention-grabbing colours into this part of the show and each model carried off what they were wearing with professional confidence and style.

‘My hope is that if the idea that people with disabilities can be attractive, confident and sexy is promoted to the public, stereotypes may be overcome, and gradually beliefs will be changed which will result in the fashion industry following’.

Exploring backstage during an interval, I found myself in a busy room filled with models. 16 year-old Natasha Wilson found the idea of the modelling on the catwalk ‘scary to begin with’, but was ‘not at all nervous’ once she got out there. Zoe Hines personal highlight of the night was ‘accomplishing going out in lingerie’ and also proudly beamed that the night was going ‘really well’.

After chatting to the models, there was a brief amount of time left before the end of the interval. The lively atmosphere was infectious and there was so much to take in; one thing that had caught my eye was a jewel-encrusted crutch, embodying the message of the night that disability need not stand in the way of confidence and style.

Seating resumed and everyone waited in anticipation of the charity auction, which was hosted by the charismatic Jon Snow. Bids could be made for a variety of things, such as: a spa break, an ‘exclusive behind the scenes tour watching Channel Four News’ and paint-balling. Towards the end of the auction, the jewel-encrusted crutch I recognised from earlier appeared on stage. I learnt it was donated to the auction by Debbie Deboo, who designs ‘Glam Sticks’. Some bids were more expensive than others, though it was clear people were willing to spend generously for the noble cause. A signed shirt by Paul Smith with a wash bag and fragrance was sold for £200. In total, the auction alone raised £2825.

Although the charity are still calculating how much money was raised from the event in total, with £30 going to the Jennifer Trust for each ticket sold and the huge success of the auction, I am confident that it was an amazing success. Thanks to Disabled and Sexy, The Jennifer Trust will have more money to continue supporting those with MSA, as well as raising funds into researching the condition. Once the amount the fashion show raised has been announced, this article will be updated online to reveal the figure.

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