The Runway of Dreams Fashion Show featured 70 models with varying disabilities and backgrounds wearing different designs displaying adaptive apparel.
Fashion should always be about celebrating individuality and creativity. A nonprofit organization called Runway Of Dreams Foundation recently showcased fashion made specifically for people with disabilities. The Runway of Dreams Fashion Show had 70 models with varying disabilities and backgrounds wearing different designs displaying adaptive apparel specifically made for people with disabilities. "I believe fashion is one of the most surreal ways to celebrate your uniqueness," said Lachi, one of the models, according to WABC. "The way I celebrate my uniqueness is by celebrating my disability."
The nonprofit works to empower people with disabilities to have confidence and self-expression through fashion and beauty inclusion. "We work to give people with disabilities access to fashion that excites and empowers them. We raise awareness, educate consumers, advocate for industry change and develop the next generation of innovators and leaders," they state on their website. The show started back with just one partnership in 2016: Tommy Hilfiger. It has now turned into a runway full of models wearing adaptive and universally-designed apparel and footwear from numerous brands. This year included Zappos, Kohl's, JCPenney, Steve Madden, Tommy Hilfiger, Target, Stride Rite, French Toast Adaptive, Adidas and for the first time, Victoria’s Secret and PINK.
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The models for the show were ecstatic to be on the runway and proudly embraced their differences. Model Dustin Giannelli also praised the inclusion of adaptive fashion. "I can't get my (hearing aids) wet. If it's raining I have to be able to put my hood on," Giannelli explained. "There is also an adaptive sweatshirt for people in wheelchairs. I've got zippers on the side of my shoes which make it adaptive for people that have issues putting sneakers on." The show took place in Park Slope, Brooklyn, on September 13 evening and was hosted by former NFL linebacker Shaquem Griffin. The athlete feels projects like this are important to raise awareness. "There is no reason why anybody with any disability shouldn't look good and also feel good," Griffin said.
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The founder of Runway of Dreams, Mindy Scheier, was motivated to create the charity around the love she had for her son. "My inspiration was that I am a fashion designer by trade, and also the mom of a now 18-year-old son who has muscular dystrophy," Scheier said. "He just wanted to be able to wear jeans like everyone else and there were no mainstream options for him."
The show has affected many people including Chris Ruden, who has been modeling with Runway of Dreams since 2018. “My entire life I thought I was broken, and it took doing a fashion show to realize that not only was I not broken, I was amazing,” Ruden told PEOPLE. “Back then I would've never even fathomed being in front of one person while showing my arm or my hand. Now I do it for a living, as a keynote speaker about overcoming adversity."
"This night is a reminder that our differences are not only normal, they're amazing, and we need to lean into that and embrace it because we all deserve to feel confident when we wake up, when we go to sleep and most importantly, with the clothes we put on," he added. What Ruden really hopes for is that this becomes so normalized it won't even need to be talked about as much. “I hope that we don't have to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion because it's normal," Ruden shared. "We don't have to force the subject of getting people to come together. That disability is not a bad word anymore. There's no more stigma.”