Boston bombing survivor and amputee Adrianne Haslet opened a body positive Vancouver Fashion Week show on March 24, walking for the #BeBodyAware collaboration, created by Toronto designer Lesley Hampton and plus size model Tia Duffy.
Haslet, a professional ballroom dancer, lost her left leg below the knee in the explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Since her injury, she has become a motivational speaker, telling her story at corporate events and prosthetic conventions. She was named one of Cosmo's Most Powerful Women of the Year in 2013, and continues to advocate for expanded prosthetic coverage for patients.
In an interview with CBC News, Hampton explained how the two came together. "I sent her an email," she said. "I was just like, 'I love your story. I'm so inspired. 'Would you be interested in coming to walk for my show?' And she replied right away, and was like, 'That's incredible, absolutely.' And she's flying all the way in from Boston."
Haslet tells Bustle in an email, "I was walking in celebration of Lesley Hampton's work, not only her work on the incredible Fall Winter 2017 collection, but her work of inclusivity. She represented models of all body types on her runway. It is my life's work to show other amputees that they can do anything. We are not broken, we are simply missing pieces. Once we have that piece, our options are limitless, as you see."
The #BeBodyAware show is a collaboration between Hampton and the Be Body Aware Project, an organization which promotes diversity in the fashion and beauty spheres. The campaign focuses on "values of empowerment and body confidence," according to a press release. Along with Haslet, three plus size models walked the runway, showing off Hampton's Fall/Winter 2017 collection.
"Adrianne translates everything the Lesley Hampton Label stands for," Hampton tells Bustle. "Having her as part of my wolf pack and giving her another chance to tell her story through my designs is an inspiration and an incredible experience. Together with the Be Body Aware project, I am hoping to set as an example for anyone affected by adversity and stand up once again to the fashion standards."
On March 27, Haslet Instagrammed a snap of herself backstage at Vancouver Fashion Week. In her caption, she mentioned charity pins, which give money to Limbs for Life, saying, "[H]elp someone run, walk, stand tall to kiss their loved ones while looking them in the eye, and return to the workforce! Or even dream big to walk in a fashion show and be accepted for all your stunning imperfections."
The push for diversity in fashion and beauty has netted some clear results. Each fashion week is more diverse than the last, and the fall/winter 2017 runways were the most inclusive in history. But while models of color, plus size models, and transgender models are gaining ground, it still feels like models with disabilities are largely overlooked when it's time to cast runways.
Seeing a model like Haslet on a fashion week runway is incredible, and hopefully her message — and her killer catwalk talent — will remind designers yet again that disabled folks are here, are not going away, and deserve representation.