Wheelchair? Please, don’t come!

Fashion, disability and non-inclusion

Inclusion and diversity are topics to which we are particularly sensitive. However, we had to overcome a certain discomfort to share this story with you. But if we want to make a change, we have to open up on this matter.

We acknowledged that Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana holds an event, at its second edition, named: “Including Diversity”.

Specifically, on Sept 20th – today – Camera Moda will discuss diversity and inclusion to promote both matters within the Italian fashion system. If you happen to read about it, you may think that the intent is noble and words strong. Everything looks so on point.

Yes, agreed. If only words correspond to facts. 

As we wrote in one of our recent posts, inclusion and diversity are much-discussed topics in the fashion field. We call them “the fashion bullshit” – because the smell of marketing is so strong. 

Inclusion and diversity: facts vs words 

After I was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, I can report a much different reality about fashion and inclusion based on my personal experience. Indeed, being a wheelchair user, I can say that not only showrooms lack accessibility but fashion events too. So, you have to entrust yourself to the empathy of employees working there. And you cannot take that empathy for granted!

In September 2019 – Covid hit the previous season – I was consulting for a brand showing in one of the exhibitions connected to Camera Moda. The designer had an invitation for an event dedicated to fashion buyers and emerging designers. Consequently, he invited me. 
I couldn’t go alone. I needed help with my wheelchair. And so, the designer informed the Camera Moda press office of the plus-one necessity. Something that shouldn’t require much explanation. No?

Their response was that because of the pandemic, they had limited access, so I wasn’t allowed to go with another person.
Of course, it meant I couldn’t take part in the event. 

My friends were shocked by the idea that I put myself in the position of asking permission. In the case of walking disability, plus-one is a fact, period. But I was afraid any reaction would cause problems for the brand I worked for.

Disappointed by that reply, I posted something on my Instagram. I was fuming, frustrated. Unable to reply as they deserved in that precise moment. Shortly after, a beautiful human DM’d me checking if she got my message right.

Laura Mohapi, a talented artist based in London, supported me. Also, she thought I had to address what happened and offered to write a letter to Camera Moda on my behalf. The idea of having to explain made me feel so bad, even if I knew it was right, so her offer was very welcome.

I read the letter she wrote, and it was like receiving a punch in my stomach. I pondered a lot. But finally, I decided to forward it by email.

No response in my inbox. Probably it went ignored. And so I sent a registered letter too.

This time the message got a little attention. Not that much. Indeed, I received in my inbox a forwarded email – in English. They didn’t even bother to make an effort to copy the English version they received and paste it into a new email. They paid zero attention to the form, giving the impression that what happened had no relevance for them. Or perhaps, they weren’t familiar with how to handle official emails. 

In the end, it took me almost two years to find the courage to write about it. But the sadness, frustration and disappointment when I see those “Include Diversity” events still make me feel sickened.

And so, Cri and I wonder: when they launch those events for the fashion industry, what do they really mean?

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