Gold Coast local Carol Taylor is the world’s first quadriplegic designer and she spends her time painting and sketching designs for other quadriplegics and people with disabilities.
Taylor made history at last week’s Brisbane Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival when she opened the Fantauzzo Next Generation show, showcasing her adaptive fashion label, MeQ, on the catwalks.
Her showcase for MBFF Brisbane was a first in the industry, leading the way for adaptive fashion.
Taylor, who is also a lawyer, has been a quadriplegic for 18 years and said her designing career was born out of necessity and frustration, which led to the label’s name, “MeQ”.
“You know the name of my label MeQ is a play on words, it stands for Me Too,” she said.
“When I go shopping I want to scream ‘me too, what about me?’”
“For far too long people with disabilities have been left out of the fashion conversation, and I want to scream: ‘Me too, I want to be included’,” Ms Taylor said.
Inclusivity for people with disabilities in the fashion industry is an area that tends to be ignored by designers and retailers, but with the Australian Bureau of Statistics Institute reporting that one in five Australians suffer from a disability of some kind, this could be a business mistake.
“I loved fashion before my injury [and] that didn’t change just because I sustained a spinal cord injury, but I couldn’t go out to the shops and buy things that would work for me, because there’s so many complications once you’re confined to a wheelchair permanently,” Taylor said.
“The whole thing of inclusive design in fashion and in everything is not just a nice charitable thing to do, it really is smart business,” she said.
“At the end of the day most of us girls and guys in wheelchairs are still armed with a credit card wanting to go out and shop, and feel glamorous and included.”
MeQ’s MBFF Brisbane showcase marked the culmination of an immensely rewarding, yet exhausting, 12 weeks since Carol Taylor was approached by organisers to create a nine-piece collection to open the Fantauzzo Next Generation show, an opportunity she never imagined would be offered to her.
“Twelve weeks as well as running my own law firm and juggling motherhood, it’s just madness,” Taylor said.
“I’m just exhausted, but I can’t believe I’ve done it, it was such an emotional time,” she said.
MeQ’s adaptive fashions were modelled by nine models, each of whom had different disabilities.
Taylor said she took up art as a coping mechanism to deal with the PTSD and depression that developed following the car crash that left her with a severe spinal injury.
From there she began designing for herself as a lover of fashion who could no longer enjoy shopping in the stores she had loved before her injury.
“There’s so many things that effect people [and] disability comes in all shapes and sizes,” Taylor said.
“I’m learning a lot about others, but I draw largely from my own experience and I know a seam placed in the wrong spot on a garment can cause a pressure sore,” she said.
Taylor said she strived to create garments that fused both functionality and fashion, an area that she identified as being left out of the disability suited designs currently available on the market.
“The adaptive clothing that’s out there, in my view, is functional but it’s far from fashionable,” she said.
MeQ’s designs boast small additions to assist people with disabilities, such as Magzip magnetic zippers, magnetic buttons and specially thought out silhouettes, while still presenting a beautiful garment.
“I want to feel glamorous and beautiful in what I’m wearing, and if I need a little help because my hands are paralysed, I think something like magnets are a great accessory,” Taylor said.
Taylor said MBFF Brisbane showcased a key theme of ‘Fashion for All’, a statement that she is passionate about.
She said her designs could, in fact, be worn by anybody, and said the added features like magnetics zips would be beneficial to any abled person, not only those with finger dexterity issues.
Taylor said creating a hybrid type of fashion that would work for both abled and disabled people would be the ultimate fashion solution.
“Why can’t there be a hybrid?” she said.
“Why can’t we go, ‘you know what, this is a beautiful garment, how do we make it so anyone can wear it?’” Taylor said.
“Almost a garment for everybody.”
Taylor said inclusivity of disabled people in all areas of life was important.
“To feel part of a community you need to see yourself reflected in that community, so where are we reflected in the fashion industry and even mainstream media?” she said.
“Where are the mannequins in wheelchairs, where are the people with disabilities in shop windows?”
“The whole fashion landscape really need to shape up and it needs to embrace fashion inclusivity,” Taylor said.
“I might be on wheels, but my fashion moves me forward,” Taylor said.
I love this post on sustainable alternatives. Great to see so many fashion-forward thinkers in the industry. There is a new ethical fashion site where you find scores of ethical fashion brands. Kind of like the good shopping guide one you posted. I think you really like this.