Disability Fashion Comes to SF State

Runway 2017: Unforeseen, an effort led by SFSU’s Dr. Phyllis Wong in partnership with the Longmore Institute on Disability and the Apparel Design & Merchandising Program, displayed an exciting blend of disability and fashion, the likes of which have never before been seen at this annual event. 

Maisoon Alghethy, a wheelchair user, beams on the runway in a custom made dark grey denim jacket and long black skirt adorned with silver beads. Several models are following behind her in a procession.Maisoon Alghethy, disability specialist at DPRC, makes her debut on the runway.

A tripartite runway show, Unforeseen featured three acts: collaborations between design students and models with disabilities that factored in accessibility and diversity; renewable capsule collections featuring damaged materials from the bookstore; and snapshots of graduating seniors’ collections. The runway also featured audio description from SFSU’s own Katie Murphy, former Longmore Institute graduate assistant, to add another dimension to garments modeled by people with disabilities and several others. (People in the audience commented that this added much to the show.)

An above the knee amputee using forearm crutches walks down the runway shirtless in a crimson vest and brightly patterned orange, red, green, and black harem shorts. Longmore Fellow, Alex Locust, walks the runway

The disabled models’ outfits incorporated elements of their dispositions and identities; for example, graduate student and Longmore Institute Fellow Alex Locust’s boldly patterned harem shorts and red vest top echoed his exuberant personality, complete with sequined lettering spelling the word “shine” on his back. Associate Vice President of Student Affairs (also chair of the Longmore Institute advisory council) Gene Chelberg walked the runway with his guide dog Brock, sporting a stylish, meticulously designed raincoat that reflected his San Franciscan chic sensibilities combined with a need for rain protection, as umbrellas confuse and distract service dogs.

The spectacular event showcased how diversity and inclusivity bring true value to the world of fashion, proving that art can, indeed, be accessible, while access can inspire some really stunning art.

Click here for a video of NBC Bay Area's coverage of the runway show! (*Access note: no closed captioning or audio description available for the video.) Six models with disabilities line the front of the runway, posed for a group photo. Audience members in the foreground are clapping in celebration. Models with disabilities pose for photos of the design collection.

*Photographs provided by Keith Bowman.