Progress not perfection

I was lucky enough to be sipping mini martinis in the front row, at AfterPay Australian Fashion Week’s closing showcase, to witness what has now become a controversial moment unfold. As iconic Australian designer, Camilla Franks, dashed to model Lisa Cox’s rescue; after she got her wheels jammed in the shredded-paper flooring.

The reaction in the room was definitely one of joy, fun and triumph – from both the audience and the two at the centre of the scandal; Camilla and Lisa.

At the industry after party, Camilla and Lisa were inseparable – laughing, checking out photos and videos of ‘the moment’ and generally having a ball ! Many people were saying it was their favourite AAFW moment … myself included !

So I definitely had to stop and check myself when I was asked to comment on some of the angry backlash in the media and on social media.

I felt like I was letting ‘my team’ (the disability community) down, by not being outraged.

But I wasn’t outraged, because I saw two women conquer a staging stuff-up. I didn’t see an ability and disability failure.

Let me take you back a few months, in order to bring some behind the scenes perspective to the incident.

In November 2020, AfterPay’s Luke Dean reached out to ask if he could speak with me about how they could make AfterPay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) more engaging for those with vision impairment.

Afterpay is the major sponsor for Australian Fashion Week for 2021 it was their very first year ‘strutting their stuff’, so to speak. Their intention was that inclusion be integral to AAFW, right from the outset.

I was impressed and delighted that Luke had reached out to a disability leader, someone with lived experience. I told him I would be more than happy to help make the event more engaging for the visually impaired community; however, if they were serious about disability inclusion, what they needed were disability leaders being at the decision-making tables throughout the entire process.

I offered to work with Luke and his team as an Inclusion Consultant. He took my proposal to an AfterPay management meeting the very next day; and they were immediately on board ! … But it wasn’t a done-deal yet. AfterPay had to sell………

“What fashion week shows us about how we approach inclusion in Australian fashion”

Jasmin Wallis – Disabled Creator and Activist