Representing the creative future

Is fashion education ignoring disability?

CSM BA Fashion Communication and Promotion graduate Saskia Rowlands created a documentary that explores the significant lack of disability representation in the fashion industry

“I consider the whole representation issue a lost cause now. I mean the fashion industry is trying to approach diverse people, people with disabilities and it has always been Kaia, Gigi, and Bella and then for one issue, we have the ‘other’ type of person. It’s just a way to clear conscience and that’s it” Maria Benedetta Melini explains in Rowlands’ documentary “Same People”. Is fashion really trying to be inclusive or is it just visiting the concept of diversity whenever it is convenient to its narrative? What is the role of fashion education in raising creatives and designers who are authentically engaged with the representation of disability in fashion and want to change a flawed industry? CSM Fashion Communication and Promotion graduate Saskia Rowlands presents a documentary that explores and aims to answer why fashion and education are still not addressing disability and diversity enough.

“Same People” by Saskia Rowlands

The film is based on my childhood friendship with Simone, who has Cerebral Palsy, and the continual discrimination she has faced throughout her life. This is something that had always deeply frustrated me, but came into sharper focus when I began studying fashion at Central Saint Martins in 2016. 

Is fashion education ignoring disability?
Saskia and her childhood friend Simone

I realised that the course I was studying, and the industry I was aspiring to work within, were both directly contributing to society’s negative perception of disability –  promoting and selling a bodily ideal to which disabled people, like Simone, cannot conform. 

It was whilst on my placement year from CSM that I decided I had to challenge this. I wanted to know why, in 2020, and at some of the most progressive fashion schools in the world, the teaching of human-centred design and communication is still being overlooked? But more importantly how, through education, we can begin to change this?

The film follows my journey in search of these answers. Featuring activists, icons, and educators, Same People is about the social fragility of the disabled body within an industry obsessed with perfection, but ultimately, is a call to arms about the power of clothing to change people’s lives.