You’ve probably already seen Kim Kardashian’s latest cover shoot and story for The Business of Fashion‘s current “Age of Influence” issue. But what you may not know is that the issue has a second cover star: Sinéad Burke, an activist who’s poised to have just as huge of an impact on the fashion industry as Kardashian has had on the beauty world.
As The Cut reports, Burke and BoF unveiled her cover photo on Instagram early Monday morning. The shot shows Burke, who has Achondroplasia and is an advocate for greater inclusivity in fashion, wearing a Burberry trench coat that she’s altered herself — with the help of the scissors she’s wielding in her right hand. In her own description of the image, Burke wrote, “Staring down the lens of the camera, I am holding a scissors and wearing a @Burberry trench coat that has been deconstructed and lacerated into pieces to fit. I’m also wearing laced Adidas Stan Smiths runners, blue eyeshadow and slicked back retro hair.” She added “#FashionMustIncludeEveryone,” a reference to her powerful 2017 TED Talk, “Why Design Should Include Everyone.”
In her accompanying cover story, Burke talks to BoF about how, thanks to the Internet and the fact that just about anybody can become an “influencer” nowadays, it no longer makes sense for fashion to exclude people of any size. “One of the challenges of fashion is that it is notoriously hierarchical, and it profits from exclusivity. In order for the disabled market to be relevant customers and to have their voices validated, there has to be power sharing. There are very few people within the fashion industry in positions of power who have lived experience or an empathy within this arena. If they design for difference without a tangible understanding, the product becomes patronizing. Or it comes about that we think only in terms of function,” she said. “Why should my experience and product and money be lessened purely by something I don’t have control of? And why isn’t anyone looking at it as a creative opportunity?”
Burke, who shared that she’s met with RuPaul, Joe Biden, and Oprah since giving her TED Talk last year — not to mention the fact that Burberry custom-tailored an entire wardrobe just for her — noted that what she’s advocating for on behalf of the disabled community is “beauty, but also autonomy,” in fashion. “I used to think influencer culture would be a new vehicle for minority voices to be heard. But this is just the beginning,” she said. “Lots of different questions need to be asked of the fashion industry. Movements often have individuals at the helm but they need to be supported by allies. For true success, there has to be a community, supported by people in power who can further causes that they aren’t perhaps affected by.” Important words to think about.
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