Diversity is only beginning to break its way into the fashion industry. Undoubtedly, its slow progress is a problem that needs to be addressed. One way to tackle a major issue, especially one of a long-standing tradition, is to set a precedent. And on February 12th of this year actress Jamie Brewer did just that.
Modelling in a black A- line for Carrie Hammer’s ‘Role Models, Not Runway Models’, Brewer became the first model with Down’s syndrome to grace the runway at New York Fashion Week. The aim of Hammer’s showcase was to show empowered women from all aspects of life, featuring the likes of female CEOS and entrepreneurs.
But Brewer’s inspiration shouldn’t just be recognised for her appearance at NYFW. She doesn’t let her disability define her, but instead defies social norms and engages with issues that are undoubtedly important in contemporary society. A commendable activist for people with Down’s syndrome, her contribution to the removal of the word “retarded” from a Texan law, which concerned the needs for people with disabilities, is just one of many reasons as to why the 30-year-old Californian has influenced many. Identifying herself to be a role model, Brewer has stated: “Young girls and even young women … [see me] and say ‘hey, if she can do it so can I. It’s a true inspiration being a role model for any young women to [encourage them] in being who they are and showing who they are.”
Breaking this fashion barrier will hopefully be a game-changer for the industry. But perhaps more importantly she has turned the whole notion of “beauty” on its head. This monumental occasion has shown that women with Down’s syndrome can be portrayed as beautiful figures, moving the unrealistic idea of “beauty” beyond the boundaries of thigh-gaps and prominent cheekbones. With this in mind, hopefully more women will be encouraged to pursue their aspirations. As Brewer says, “embrace the fear and go for it.”