Leading fashion school, Parsons School of Design, is launching a program in collaboration with Tilting the Lens to support and empower disabled fashion designers.
The fashion industry has long been criticized for its lack of diversity and representation, particularly when it comes to size, race, ability, and gender identity. While there has been some progress in recent years, many individuals who don’t fit the stereotypical beauty ideal still face barriers in the fashion world. However, Parsons School of Design is taking a bold step towards challenging these inequities with the launch of the Parsons Disabled Fashion Student Program. This program aims to provide opportunities and support for aspiring fashion designers who identify as disabled, with a fund of over $500,000 to recruit and mentor three incoming students.
Addressing the Lack of Representation in Fashion
The fashion industry has often been criticized for its lack of diversity and representation. The industry’s narrow standards of beauty and limited inclusion of marginalized groups have left many feeling excluded and underrepresented. The Parsons Disabled Fashion Student Program aims to challenge these inequities by providing a platform for disabled fashion designers to showcase their talent and creativity. By creating a space that celebrates diversity and inclusivity, Parsons hopes to change the way future generations perceive the function of fashion.
Mentors and Support from Industry Leaders
The program has garnered support from industry leaders and influential figures. Mentors include model Aaron Rose Philip, who has worked with renowned brands such as Moschino, Collina Strada, and Versace. Rachel Iseman, head of finance at Fondation Chanel, is also among the program’s mentors. The Ford Foundation will support research on disabled students’ experiences in fashion school, which will help shape the program and be made available to other institutions. Additionally, H&M will provide funding for the scholarship, further demonstrating the industry’s commitment to inclusivity.
Breaking Down Barriers and Challenging Tokenism
The Parsons Disabled Fashion Student Program is not just about providing opportunities for disabled fashion designers; it is also a commitment to combat tokenism and performative gestures. The program’s founders, Ben Barry, the dean of fashion at Parsons, and Sinéad Burke, founder and CEO of Tilting the Lens, aim to create lasting change within the fashion industry. By challenging the existing hierarchy and division in fashion, they hope to pave the way for a more inclusive and accessible future.
Accessibility in Fashion Education and Industry
The program not only aims to support disabled fashion designers within the school but also addresses the broader issue of accessibility in the fashion industry. Fashion houses are often located in cities with infrastructure that is not readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. The program seeks to raise awareness and educate fashion brands about the challenges faced by disabled individuals in the industry. By fostering a more inclusive and accessible environment, the program hopes to inspire change and innovation in the industry as a whole.
Creating Lasting Impact and Expectations
Rebecca Cokley, the Ford Foundation’s first U.S. Disability Rights Program Officer, emphasizes the importance of disabled representation in fashion education. By regularly including disabled individuals at Parsons, non-disabled individuals will come to expect and appreciate their presence in the industry. This increased visibility will lead to greater opportunities for disabled individuals to apply for internships and job positions. It will also encourage fashion brands to consider accessibility in their designs, materials, and practices. The program aims to make a lasting impact by challenging the status quo and inspiring innovation in the fashion industry.
The Parsons Disabled Fashion Student Program represents a significant step towards a more inclusive and diverse fashion industry. By providing support, mentorship, and opportunities for disabled fashion designers, Parsons is challenging the existing norms and standards in the industry. The program’s founders and mentors hope to create lasting change by fostering an environment that celebrates diversity and champions accessibility. Through this initiative, Parsons is not only shaping the future of fashion education but also inspiring the industry as a whole to embrace inclusivity and break down barriers.