New York Fashion Week Show With A Model In A Wheelchair? You Better Believe It!


When you think of New York Fashion Week, the word “diversity” doesn’t exactly spring to mind first, right? But what if we told you that soon it will be, because there is a changing trend in the industry to be more inclusive, diverse and recognize the variety of women’s body shapes and sizes that exist in the world, and represent that on the runway.

Fashion Week is the biggest platform to showcase something different and force a trickle-down effect all the way to department stores and each women’s view of fashion. Last fall we saw NYFW making history by showcasing it’s very first plus size fashion show, and this year was another first for the fashion capital. They showcased their very first model in a wheelchair on the runway.

We bet you never thought you’d see this happen on the runway! But you’d better believe it. The model’s name is Dr. Danielle Sheypuk, she is 35, held the title of Ms. Wheelchair New York 2012, and she was part of the Carrie Hammer show this year.

Carrie, who specializes in custom-made pieces said to the press her decision was to cast “role models, not runway models.”

It reminds us of the Marks and Spencer Winter 2013 Campaign which bucked tradition, using real life British role models, not just the usual round of models, for the shoot. It was pretty monumental!

“It is so important to me that women have positive body image and are empowered in work and their life. My line makes dresses to fit women. We don’t make dresses that women need to fit into.” said Carrie Hammer in an interview regarding the decision to feature a model in a wheelchair as part of her show.

Danielle was the best choice for the job! She is a psychologist, media commentator, disability rights advocate and of course, model. She was born with spinal muscular dystrophy and has been in a wheelchair since the age of two. She is also a relationship expert who specializes in helping other disabled people navigate the dating scene and break down the negative stereotypes amongst disabled communities.


She jumped at the chance to be part of Carrie Hammer’s show when asked, because part of her mission is to represent more diverse types of role models in the world, including disabled ones.

“People with disabilities need to see it. It’s a confidence booster. It’s like, ‘if she’s doing it, I can do it. Who cares about my wheelchair? I was just another model in a show, and that’s exactly what I wanted.”

“I would like the whole spectrum of fashion designers to tune in, all the way up to high fashion like Tory Burch, Gucci and Louis Vitton because, why not?” Sheypuk said. “Many of us have successful careers and we have money and we want to spend it and we want to look good.”

As for the crowd who were lucky enough to witness fashion history in the making, designer Hammer said it left everyone in chills and was a very empowering moment.

“The fashion industry was a hard nut to crack . . . but I think there is progress,” Sheypuk said, referring to the growing celebration of diverse ethnicities, sizes and shapes. “It’s just time to include people with disabilities. It’s 2014.”

“Fashion is about dressing the body that you have. It doesn’t matter what disability you have, or if you have one.  It’s about knowing what to accentuate. It’s important for the fashion industry to demonstrate how to do this because we really have no role models out there in terms of the fashion industry,” she said.  “The only way we can really normalize being in a wheelchair and increase acceptance is if everyone is listening.”


Danielle’s next fashion gig is with The Raw Beauty photography project promoting beauty amongst disabled women, which will culminate in a exhibition in Manhattan in the spring, as well as online.

Carrie Hammer started her fashion line 2 years ago and this was her first NYFW show, and boy did she come out the gate firing! In a video interview she said:

“The show was really about female empowerment, girl power and showing younger women that role models are the real models.”

“The brands that step up to the plate by casting women who better and more accurately represent their customers will get big kudos and recognition,” she said.  “At the end of the day, aren’t our customers what we do this for? Let be sure that we are empowering them rather than demoralizing them.”

This all falls into the huge need of diverse female representation of all types. The more variations of role models young women see, the more empowered they will feel to nurture their own confidence, rather than trying to adopt a false sense of identity from the media which an be very exclusionary at times.

For an industry that thrives on typically creating a false sense of “beauty” there are some amazing women coming out of seemingly nowhere, creating their own spectacle and drastically changing the conversations we have about fashion. Bravo Carrie Hammer for putting on a show filled with real women, and real role models.


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