Vogue Australia’s sustainability editor Clare Press interviews writer, activist and co-founder of the Inclusive Fashion and Design Collective (IFDC) Sinéad Burke, for the 100th episode of Wardrobe Crisis podcast.
Fashion must wake up to the opportunities of inclusivity and welcoming everyone. “I am physically disabled. I have achondroplasia, which is the most common form of dwarfism,” explains Sinéad Burke on the Wardrobe Crisis podcast this week.
“I stand at the height of 3 foot 5 inches tall, so I am about half the size of most of the population. My greatest challenge is that I live in this world which was never designed for me.”
Listen to the interview in full on iTunes and below:
“The advocacy work I do is not to get the world redesigned for me specifically,” she says, “but just to think about the opportunities for creativity, innovation, profitability and inclusion that would exist if we thought more broadly about how we construct and build this world.
She sees narrow thinking play out in “everything from public bathrooms and not being able to reach the lock on the door” to “going to order a cup of coffee and the counter being too high” and “going into a retail store and not being able to reach anything” because of the height of the clothes racks. “We design for one specific eye-line, and one point of reference instead of thinking about lots of different people who exists in society,” she says.
This interview was recorded during London Fashion Week, the day after the Victoria Beckham show, so of course we discuss fashion, which has a way to go to embrace diversity and inclusion.
These days, Burke can order custom-made designer outfits – like the fabulous blue silk Gucci dress she wore to address the World Economic Forum at Davos in January – but that wasn’t always the case. On the podcast, she explains the creative hacks she employed in the past to adapt regular womenswear to her requirements, and challenges fashion to include more people.
Many of us, for many different reasons, have felt frustration over clothes designed for a very narrow customer-base. Change is overdue. If nothing else, it’s good business. By embracing the opportunity to cater to more shapes, sizes, abilities and needs, fashion could unlock new markets. Burke points out that “the market for the disabled community alone has a spending power of about $1.3 trillion, [and] if you bring in their family and friends it’s about $7 trillion per annum…There is a community you build when you push forward with this work. There’s a financial opportunity, but there’s also an educational one.”
Burke was drawn to working in fashion, partly, for “its ability to transform what is defined as stylish, or fashionable or chic.”
She says, “the power of visibility cannot be undermined…Then it’s [a case of] trying use that visibility to push forward. For me, the solution has never been that I have a beautiful wardrobe.” Burke wants to change the world for everyone.
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Discover why Sinéad Burke was awarded The GCFA Leaders Award at the 2018 Green Carpet Fashion Awards.