In September, the Fendace fashion show, which took place at the tail end of Milan Fashion Week, grabbed headlines for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to Kim Jones and Silvia Fendi, the designers of Fendi, had created their own version of Versace, and Donatella Versace had done her own version of Fendi; it was the first time two brands from different luxury groups had been allowed to loose in each other’s archives; and the runway was brimming with former supermodels, including Kristin McMenamy, Naomi Campbell, Amber Valletta, Kate Moss, and Gigi Hadid.
One of the most noticeable aspects of the presentation was a tubeless white pump exposed on the upper left leg of Lila Grace Moss Hack, a young model who strutted the catwalk in a gold-and-white Fendi x Versace swimsuit that was cut high on the thighs and a jacket with Greek key trim.
It was hard to miss an Omnipod insulin pump, which is used to treat Type 1 diabetes (T1D), which is an autoimmune condition that may be diagnosed at any age — my daughter was diagnosed when she was 8 — because it was so large. Another stride in fashion’s notion of inclusion was marked by the model’s presence on the runway, which brought attention to an often-overlooked medical condition.
According to The Fashion Spot, a trend predicting website, although the most recent full fashion season, which began earlier this autumn, may have been the most inclusive in terms of colour, age, size, and gender, models with disabilities continue to be underrepresented and underexposed on the runway.
Laura Winson is the founder and director of Zebedee Management, a modelling agency that was established in 2017 to represent models that are handicapped or visually impaired. In her words, “before Zebedee, disability was not included in the discussion of diversity.” A handicap was represented in fashion advertising by just 0.02 percent of the persons that appeared in the ads.
Even though Ms. Moss Hack refused to comment on her decision to go public with her pump, she was the only model in the Fendace show to do so, and given the intense scrutiny that every model faces on a catwalk, it is impossible to imagine that the choice was accidental.
Northwood-Blyth is an Australian-born model who is 30 years old and has walked the runways for Balenciaga and Chanel, as well as being the face of Calvin Klein’s CK One perfume. As a T1D advocate who has worked in the modelling profession since she was 14 and was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 12, she says that although she has found support in the industry, she has also decided to remove her glucose monitor while on the job on certain occasions.
For Irish novelist and disability campaigner Sinead Burke, who was born with achondroplasia, a genetic disease that is the most prevalent type of dwarfism, seeing models with disabilities on the runway is vital because, as she explains, “fashion affects everyone because we all need to dress.” Almost everyone knows what I am talking about.”
In and of itself, the fact that Ms. Moss Hack was unaware that wearing her visible insulin pump on the runway “would be a huge issue,” according to Ms. Burke, is a sign of accomplishment.