The late fashion stylist Isabella Blow once said "Fashion is a vampiric thing. It's the hoover on your brain. That's why I wear the hats, to keep everyone away from me".
I read Blow's quote a few years ago when I first became interested in pursuing fashion as a career. I related to it because I enjoy the way fashion can give you confidence, express your personality and act as an armour against the world.
But the fashion industry, by its very nature, it's not exactly an inclusive industry for those of us with disabilities. As much as I love fashion, I wanted to block the negative stereotyping the industry inflicts on my self esteem because I have a disability. So, like Isabella Blow, I put a hat on and started my degree three years ago at the University of Huddersfield in Fashion Design with Marketing and Production.
We are said to live in a society today that is much more inclusive of disabled people. Thanks to the Equality Act and campaigning by disabled activists, public areas are increasingly more wheelchair accessible, and there is much more 'disability awareness' in society. All the physical means have improved tremendously since twenty years ago. But where is the inclusion and presence of disabled people in fashion?
It is now time to present fashion on bodies with a variety of abilities.
I am 21 years old with a degenerative muscular condition. Consequently I have been using a wheelchair for five years now. Like Isabella Blow and her beautiful hats, putting on my make-up and the clothes I wear is like my battle armour for the day. I'm sure a lot of other women with disabilities feel the same. Designers are missing a key consumer pitch by dismissing disabled people, both as representatives of their brand and as potential customers. We are the ones who want to make an effort towards what we wear, because choosing our outfit is often the only thing we have control of.
I love fashion and yet I always feel disappointed by the mainstream fashion week shows. And I have gradually come to realise that this is because I, as a disabled woman, have never been pitched to by fashion designers. Brands entice consumers by selling not just the clothes but the aspirational lifestyle. However, my lifestyle as a disabled woman has never been considered by them, so how am I supposed to form a relationship with a fashion brand the way they want a consumer to?
Last week, actress Jamie Brewer made fashion history by being the first model with Down's syndrome to walk the catwalk at New York Fashion Week (NYFW). And then FTL Moda's AW15 show featured wheelchair users and amputee models. The transformation that NYFW has just shown us blew me away with inspiration and determination to support this step towards more diversity in the fashion industry.
London Fashion Week kicked off on Friday and it will be interesting to see if they follow New York's pursuit of development in models of diversity. After the extreme success and media coverage NYFW has had from this, I believe if they do not, it will be shameful for our country.
Seeing NYFW using models of different abilities walking and wheeling down their runways has reassured my confidence in the power of fashion and inspired me to pursue my career after I graduate.
People with disabilities and our allies are clearly becoming more influential in the fashion industry in America. Now it's time for the UK fashion industry to make a stand in embracing the beauty of diversity and include us too.
As Chelsey Jay, Director of the campaigning group Models of Diversity perfectly states, "Not everyone makes a stand, standing".
Laura Richter is a member of Trailblazers, the Muscular Dystrophy UK's network of young disabled campaigners. www.mdctrailblazers.org