A few hours after Paris Fashion Week came to a close, more than 70 models strutted down a catwalk in Los Angeles. This was no hushed affair; instead, shouts, cheers, hoots, and applause reverberated throughout the room. With good cause—it was the annual runway show for Runway of Dreams, a nonprofit organization that champions adaptive fashion designs for disabled people. The show, which presented clothing and accessories from a mix of designers and brands, is the the most visible example of the organization’s work in charity and advocacy.
“When I started Runway of Dreams in 2013, there were zero mainstream brands that offered adaptive clothing,” said Mindy Scheier, the founder and CEO. Scheier, who has more than 20 years of experience in the fashion industry, came up with the idea when her son, Oliver, who has Muscular Dystrophy, told her he dreamt of wearing jeans like his peers. She turned his request into a full-blown cause. Cut to March 2022 and there were six mainstream brands participating, as well as a roster of up-and-coming labels. “I felt like we had a really solid force behind us to take LA by storm,” she said.
As runway diversity comes to the fore, there’s been a big uptick in different body types and ethnicities in mainstream fashion shows. And yet people with disabilities still are kept on the sidelines. Runway of Dreams is a corrective, a way for the industry to see that disabled people deserve clothing that not only helps them express themselves but makes sense for their lives.
“The energy backstage, it’s all about teamwork,” said Misty Diaz, who is not only a model but an athlete and motivational speaker. “And people weren’t just looking at me because of my disability, and that doesn’t happen very often.”
Diaz, who goes by Lil Misty online and has Spina Bifida, says Runway of Dreams is the type of event that allows young people to see a version of themselves represented in media and open up their eyes to the possibilities life has in store. “I didn’t meet anyone with my condition until my early 20s,” she said. “So I was like, Why is it just me? But my family really instilled in me that I don’t have a disability. And, disabled people, they’re the smartest, most creative people. If they want to do something, they’ll figure it out.” So, what does she want people to take away from the show? “Um, that we’re changing the world,” she exclaimed. “And that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. We’re a very loud community,” she continued. “We don’t give up.”