26/02/2016 12:49 GMT | Updated 26/02/2017 05:12 GMT

The Future of Fashion? More Diversity


The UK fashion industry has a lot to be proud of.

It provides nearly 800,000 people with work and has delivered one of the most high profile events of the year - London Fashion Week.

There have been hundreds of artists, architects and designers pulling together to make this happen. It is testament to the opportunities available in our growing economy.

Opportunities that I want to see extended to everyone.

As the Minister for Disabled People, I see the incredible skills and talents of people battling physical and mental disabilities every day. This includes individuals like Amandeep from Wolverhampton; fed up of her drab grey crutches she worked hard to redecorate them - turning them from appliances to fashion accessories. She now runs her own company, Stride Style to make them available to lots of others.

I also see role models like Kelly Knox. Born without a forearm, Kelly didn't let this stop her achieving her dreams of becoming a model. She's had great success in TV and magazines and is using her fame to challenge misconceptions about disability. She's come on board as one of our Disability Confident ambassadors to talk to people about her journey and encourage employers to hire disabled people.

Thanks to the adjustments made by her employers, she was able to succeed. And I want this to be available to everyone.

Key to this is accessibility. This means opening up the recruitment process and sharing the path to success so that people know where and how they can apply for jobs. It also means adjusting the work place and practices - something that my Department can help with.

Let's tap into our Great British spirit and make the most of disabled people's potential.

We can do this by:

Supporting more disabled people into work. We already have 3.27 million disabled people in jobs. But we can do better. I want to see more disabled people working - whether that's as a buyer, photographer or manager in fashion, this is crucial in moving towards halving the disability employment gap.

For those that are nearly ready for work, apprenticeships and work experience provide the perfect options. We're committed to delivering three million more apprenticeships and for fashion lovers this is a great chance to mould, tailor and sew.

Becoming a Disability Confident employer. We launched Disability Confident to empower employers to recruit and retain disabled people. We found one of the biggest barriers was in understanding what changes employers might need to make to employ a disabled person, so my Department works with employers in tackling common myths.

112 employers are active partners of the campaign but none are in the fashion industry. We're reaching out to the industry to come on board, become ambassadors and share the message about disability confidence.

More information on disability confident can be found here.

Making the most of the Purple Pound. The spending power of disabled households is about £212 billion. The fashion industry is missing out by not representing them. When disabled people watch a fashion show, they want to picture themselves in the clothes. The lack of diversity doesn't allow that. By including a broader range of models, we can revolutionise fashion as we know it.

It's clear with a few steps that we can move towards the change we want to see.

Our creative industries are the cornerstones of British society. They are worth more than £84 billion to our economy with fashion accounting for around a third.

But by increasing diversity and reflecting what we see in our streets in the sector, we can be even greater.

And, as we continue to create and innovate, I see the future of fashion as a reflection of us all.

Justin Tomlinson is the Minister for Disabled People

This February, HuffPost UK Style is running a month-long focus on our Fashion For All campaign, which aims to highlight moments of colour, size, gender and age diversity and disability inclusivity in the fashion and beauty world.

We will be sharing moments of diversity at London Fashion Week with the hashtag #LFW4All and we'd like to invite you to do the same. If you'd like to blog about diversity or get involved, email us here.