Down Syndrome Model Makes History At New York Fashion Week

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We don’t always talk about New York Fashion Week, but when we do, you can guarantee it involves something exciting and empowering. Designer Carrie Hammer, fast becoming one of our fave fashion gals, has done it again. She may not be a household name like Gucci or Tory Burch (YET!) but every single second of her involvement in NYFW over the past couple of years has made headlines.

In Feb 2014 she created history at the event by including the first ever wheelchair model in a runway show at NYFW. Danielle Sheypuk was Ms. Wheelchair New York in 2012, a psychologist and disability rights advocate. Then in September 2014 Carrie Hammer set the fashion stage on fire again by including the first quadruple amputee as a model on the runway in the form of Karen Crespo, who lost all her limbs due to bacterial meningitis.

Carrie’s mission is to widen the scope of what is considered fashionable and include a heavy dose of diversity at an event where it is typically devoid of it.

In 2015 she has already started the year with a bang and managed to eclipse any other brands at NYFW in terms of headlines. Her show titled ‘Role Models not Runway Models’ included a line up that puts the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show to shame.

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The women included Founder of Black Girls Code – Kimberly Bryant, Principal and Corporate Responsibility Leader of Price Waterhouse Coopers – Shannon Schuyler, Director of Social Good Programs for Microsoft – Wendy Norman, SVP and Global Chief Creativity Catalyst of McCann Worldgroup – Nicole V Cramer, Malala Fund co-founder – Shiza Shahid, director of program at the Clinton Global Initiative – Alexandra Amouyel, and actress on ‘American Horror Story’ – Jamie Brewer, who is also the first model with Down Syndrome to ever walk in NYFW.

“We feature incredible influential women on the runaway. CEOs, executives, activist, actresses, anyone who is the top of the field, top of their game,” Hammer told USA Today.

Yep, she has well and truly established herself as a disrupter of the fashion industry, and we like it!

Songs featured in the show were recognizable female empowerment anthems such as Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off’ and Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj’s ‘Bang Bang’.

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Jamie Brewer who already joined a handful of pioneers being one of only a few actors and actresses with down syndrome to appear on prime time television said she relishes this opportunity to give greater visibility to other down syndrome people in the fashion world.

“Young girls and even young women…[see me] and say ‘hey, if she can do it so can I,'” she told the ‘Today’ show. “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.”

Carrie believes her efforts are shifting and shaping the attitudes of fashion lovers in ways that not many have been able to do before her.

“Putting on this show is really exciting for me because it’s redefining the type of model we use on the runway and the type of model women should look up to,” she said.

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Carrie doesn’t go through modeling agencies for a typical fashion week casting, instead she looks at her own circle of friends and has a very easy time picking a group of empowered ladies that are inspiring many viewers.

“I called up my existing clients who were all incredible women and one of them happened to be a doctor and a sex therapist who happened to be in wheelchair. It was never intended to be this incredible statement.”

The feedback she has been getting is an overwhelming confirmation of how needed this kind of show is. One woman in particular, Katie Driscoll, co-founder of Changing the Face of Beauty, a nonprofit that encourages media to include people with disabilities, wrote to Carrie after the show featuring Danielle Sheypuk, saying it gave her own daughter Grace, who has down syndrome, hope that disabled people are now being represented.

“Thank you for being the change that is long overdue. I could literally cry every time I read an article talking about your decision to include a model who just happens to have a disability! YOU are what this world needed!” she wrote.

Katie was the person who actually suggested Jamie Brewer from AHS which has now given another previously unrepresented group another huge public platform.

You can watch a video of the show below featuring highlights of all the models, uploaded by blogger Stephanie Florence from 4020vision.com who attended the show.

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5 Comments

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