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The I Can't Stand Podcast LIVE: Disability Inclusion Takes Centre Stage

If you missed out on the live podcast for The Paypal Melbourne Fashion Festival, don't worry! We've got you covered.

In this episode, you'll hear from James Parr and Peta Hooke on their perspectives for what the future of fashion has in store. As two disabled people themselves, James and Peta provide unique insights on the importance of inclusivity in fashion.

The discussion focuses on the growth and importance of adaptive and inclusive fashion, highlighting the need for the fashion industry to consider the disabled community as customers and consumers.

Connect with James:

Connect with Peta:

Instagram: @petahooke


Episode Transcript

Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to The I Can't Stand Podcast. The podcast answering your questions on what life is like when you have a disability. This is a very special episode, something that I've never done before, and I really hope you enjoy it. If you don't know, I was thrilled to be a part of the Melbourne Fashion Festival this year. In March I hosted two events, one with Heidi Anderson, to prove that everybody is beautiful, but I also hosted another very important event you probably already guessed from the title of this podcast. But I interviewed First Nations model James Par on the future of fashion and the fact that the future of fashion is disability inclusion. So if you didn't get the opportunity to watch James and myself live on the day as part of the festival, here's your opportunity now to listen back. Many of you are probably very used to my audio quality going up and down, but I have to say this audio quality in particular because it wasn't recorded in studio, will sound a little bit different. Nonetheless, I think it's a really valuable conversation and I hope you enjoy it.

Gloss the Queen [00:01:30] Our next panellist is a podcast called I Can't Stand This Episode. They'll be discussing the next big thing in fashion being disability inclusion. The podcast is hosted by the one and only Peta Hooke with a guest... [audience cheer] I didn't get that. And, of course, their gorgeous guest, James Parr [audience cheer]. So Peta Hooke themselves not only being the host of the podcast, they also are a disability activist with cerebral palsy. They're dedicated to educating and having an open dialogue on living with disabilities and creating a more inclusive space. Their guest, James Pye, is a queer First Nations individual living with a below the knee amputee. They are a triathlete and a representative of the Melbourne Fashion Week through modelling and the Fashion festival as well as an Afterpay fashion festival model. So please give it up for the podcast. I can't stand.

Peta [00:02:31] Well, firstly, I'd like to thank you all for coming today. I'm very excited to talk about inclusive and inclusive fashion. But before I get started, I look, I would like to expect I respectfully acknowledge that we're meeting on the traditional land of the call invited, and I would like to pay my respects to elders both past and present, and the elders that may be with us from other communities today. As my lovely introductory said. My name is Peter Hook. I'm the host of the Icons Said podcast and I'm very excited to be talking with you today. We're talking about inclusion in the fashion industry. So to get started, James, I would like to get to know you since you a little. Have you felt a part of the fashion industry?

James [00:03:21] Since I was little. I think I probably didn't have much of a I'm going to say respect for fashion. I didn't really care about fashion or, you know, I wasn't really open to the fashion world until very recently. So I think as I was growing up, I was like, I grew up in the country. So fashion there is just like wearing crocs and flip flops and but yeah, so like, I didn't really have any fashion back then. I think I was probably around 18 that I sort of started using fashion to probably express myself and yeah, just to have fun with it.

Peta [00:04:04] You had cancer really young and you became an amputee through having cancer. How how were you informed about having a disability? When we're talking about representation in the media and how fashion can inform that, What what did you think it was going to be like having a disability?

James [00:04:24] Yeah, I think the representation in media for someone who has a disability is that's quite a sad or negative connotation that is attached to the word disabled or even just having the visual disability. You know, I had people constantly telling me that they felt sorry for me or that they were sad for me, but there was no actual reason. And even when we look at representation within media, no, I remember I never, ever saw anyone with a disability. So even when I told when I was told that I had to have an amputation, I found that hard to relate to or someone to look at or to have that, I guess, connected connectedness to. And, you know, even like when we look out, like to see, yeah, it's like, sure, you can have a car accident and you can become disabled, but that is represented in the way I am perceived, in the way that having a disability is the worst thing that could happen to you. And really, it's not like.

Peta [00:05:27] I totally agree with you. Like for me, when I looked at THC ads, it was like they called it, you know, they're in a wheelchair, they lost over and like I've been in a wheelchair since I was five. So does that mean my life's been over since I was five? I don't think so. So I totally agree with you.

James [00:05:43] Yeah, exactly. And that even then comes off into the fashion industry, you know, And I always say representation has the power and the ability to shift societal views on how we view things, especially disability. And like I said, when I acquired my disability, because of the lack of representation and the negative representation, I felt very lonely and I felt very scared to then identify with someone who had a disability and. Yeah.

Peta [00:06:15] Going on to fashion for a minute. I did a lot of research for this conversation to see when disability and fashion sort of interconnect interconnected and. Amy Mullins was a Paralympian and she has a prosthetic herself and she was part of the McQueen's fashion show in 1999. There was a lot of pushback at the time because of that representation was so shocking. But Amy said that her prosthesis was like wearable art and sculpture. How do you view your prosthesis, James?

James [00:06:50] I mean, I guess a part of it can be art. I like I have a black prosthetic, so, like, I'm not very out there with it, but I honestly just view it as something normal. Like I wouldn't even look at it as art or anything like that. I like showing it off and making sure I wear pants or shorts, even though I'm not wearing them today. That's like a hard question because I'm sort of like I can see how it can be used as art, although I don't really project it that way. But I think it's just a part of me. Like I see photos of myself with two legs and I look weird.

Peta [00:07:30] Well, I have to say, you say that black isn't the most out there choice, but we are in Melbourne. So you're. You're very fashionable. True.

James [00:07:38] It's just very easy to. Style when when it comes to fashion and just wearing every day.

Peta [00:07:48] So when we talk about life on set. Can you give me an example of when you felt really included and understood?

James [00:07:55] I think every set I've been to, I have never once not felt included. You know, I think sometimes you can have. Those thoughts of whether you're you're there just to tick a box or you're there for yourself. Although I do feel like it is important being there to tick a box. I also don't want to be there to just tick a box because I am a person. I'm not just someone who has a disability. But in saying that I've never once had that I guess performative tokenism or anything like that pushed on to me on set or with any campaign I've ever done. Nothing has ever been negative. And yeah, I think although like we're in infancy stage, I still think we're we're getting it right slowly.

Peta [00:08:45] That's really great to hear. That makes me really happy. Are there any brands in particular that have been really supportive to you in your career?

James [00:08:53] Honestly, I think every brand I've worked with, like I first sort of jammed the label and then, you know, I've just signed on with I mean, as ambassador, I've just done Calvin Klein. So I think, yeah, every single brand I've worked with has been very supportive in that in that sense.

Peta [00:09:12] Well, I'll speak for myself for a minute and believe it's selfish. I have to say, Jane, the label has been very, very supportive to me. I'm wearing their pants and I feel very fierce. So I guess it's great to see that there's so much inclusion and starting to have acceptance. But hopefully you don't have to just be a public figure to gain acceptance from brands. Hopefully. Normal, everyday disabled people will feel as connected and appreciated by every brand in the future. And I'm sure you agree with me.

James [00:09:46] We're getting their rest slowly getting made like you even look at. Or we think it's important as well to acknowledge the mainstream brands like um as well who are providing this shift or making adaptive wear to suit their clients and their customers. Like you could look at Skims who just come out with their adaptive, but then also making it mainstream, or Tommy Hilfiger who has their adaptive. And um, yeah, I think that's, that's the right step as well.

Peta [00:10:21] You pre-empted my next question because I was going to talk about tokenism and representation. And for me, my first example of representation was going through Target and saying a little boy in a wheelchair on the on the sign and not, you know, advertising the fact that it was a disability friendly brand as such. But just having that representation and the US being seen as a different version of normal was just so empowering to me. Thing like, you're the first person I've ever seen in a marketing campaign that's just, Hey, he has a disability and there's there's nothing special about that. And I really loved that.

James [00:11:02] Yeah, I think that's the best part of representation I think we're seeing now is that people are just included and then not so segregated. I think, you know, we are a minority group. We're also the largest minority group, but also. The minority group that anyone can become a part of any day today. I see example of that now, but it's I don't know. It just like baffles me how we're so forgotten about. And also say the flip side as a consumer, because when I shop now, I'm very conscious of the brands that, you know, either I work with or that I wear because if I don't have representation, I don't want to. I don't want to wear them.

Peta [00:11:47] Well, if we're talking to friends today and this is our opportunity to talk about friends and they're worried about seeming tokenistic, how would you recommend that they do give us that representation that we're all craving?

James [00:12:03] I think if you're worried about tokenism, you probably are being tokenistic. So you're like, if you use someone who has a disability or someone from minority group in your campaign or in your branding or in your e-comm, and you use that as a statement to make your brand look better, that's tokenistic rather than just having us there.

Peta [00:12:25] I would also say that people with disabilities also have the skills to be in a part of the brain that's not forward facing. Like is there anybody in accounting or marketing or all those different opportunities and having that different perspective and diverse voices can only be a benefit to Fred?

James [00:12:45] Yeah, exactly. And I think it's important when brands or companies or whoever are working with people who have a disability, it's probably important to have someone with a disability on that team so that you are ensuring that it's not tokenistic or performative and you have someone to liaise with in that space.

Peta [00:13:06] Do you have any advice for somebody who has a disability who wants to break into the fashion industry? Like, how did you break into the fashion industry, James?

James [00:13:16] It's hard. It sort of just like came to me so hard. Question for me to answer because, yes, it's my career now, but when I first started it was just like a little hobby and sort of my way to provide representation and the representation I didn't have. But honestly, I think the best advice is just to get out there in the fashion world and make yourself known. So I think just get yourself out there in that fashion world and go to these events, Go to Fashion Week.

Peta [00:13:48] And you're really mindful when you pick a brand and how they present themselves and how they're being inclusive.

James [00:13:56] Yes. Yeah. I'll look at their their marketing, their campaigns. They e-com their Instagram just to see what they're doing in that space to make sure that they are providing a voice and a non tokenistic voice or performative voice or doing it in a performative way. Otherwise, I don't really want to align myself with that and I think I haven't really come across that lately. So I think where we're getting in the right step.

Peta [00:14:28] And what do you wish the Australian fashion industry better understood about disabled people And disabled consumers.

James [00:14:36] Were normal people as well. You know, and I say normal with quotation marks, because what is normal.

Peta [00:14:42] And for those who are sitting here today, they might not know what adaptive fashion is. So can you give a little explanation of what adaptive fashion is and how it's different to the mainstream?

James [00:14:54] So adaptive fashion is basically in the name now is just making clothes that are adaptive and functional for people who have a disability, but also for everyone. So, for example, I know that Jem has just made pants that have a zipper up on the calf, so if I want to access my prosthetic, I don't have to go to a bathroom and pull my pants down or someone who is a wheelchair user. The clips are accessible and the zips are accessible so that you can access the pants more accessible. You know, people who have autism, there are no tags, so they're not getting irritated. People have low mobility, although usage in their hands, able to access the parents more or the clothing. And yeah, it's just more accessible for everyone. The shoes I've seen shoes with zips for people who have a prosthetic, I think I've covered it, but yeah.

Peta [00:16:01] The only thing I could think of people who use different mobility aids that can't use bags, need lots of pockets to store all their things. Because you can imagine trying to carry your whole life when you're using crutches, for example. Sometimes you just need more pockets than the average person or.

James [00:16:18] People who don't have who have poor fine motor skills or don't have the ability to work on their fine motor. I know GM has shirts that have magnets instead of buttons, which is also a good party trick. So thanks for that. Yeah.

Peta [00:16:34] And how do you feel about adaptive fashion and if it's trendy and fashionable and that way, do you think it's going into the future?

James [00:16:44] I know when I acquired my disability four years ago, I was looking at adaptive fashion purely for that reason, because I had to access my prosthetic most of the time. And again I had to go into the bathroom all the time and pull my pants down and it was just irritating. So I was looking for pants that have a zip up the side. And honestly, they were all just like, marketed for just.

Peta [00:17:09] The elderly.

James [00:17:10] Yeah. I didn't wanna say it, but yeah, respectfully, the elderly. And it's just like, who? Who is buying this? Who is wearing this? I think now, you know, with the likes of Jem, the label and even like Tommy Hilfiger, like we're getting there and we're making sure people have access to adaptive fashion.

Peta [00:17:34] And I think for me, when I used to look at adaptive fashion when I was younger, it very much struck me as the medical model of disability, like it came from the lens of we're helping a patient. And it was sort of not very nice, you know, it didn't make you feel good. It made you feel sick and nobody wants to feel sick.

James [00:17:53] Yeah, they I feel like they probably didn't think back then that we also are into fashion because of better sports. Like, why would we be?

Peta [00:18:02] Well, it just goes to show you that it take taken people to understand that disabled people are attractive and have a normal life just like anybody else. And we're not sitting all the time in hospital beds being sick. We want clothes that, you know, work around our lives.

James [00:18:19] Exactly.

Peta [00:18:21] So what would you say to people that say that to be inclusive is too expensive or the market isn't big enough?

James [00:18:30] I'd probably laugh, but I also think they probably think it's too expensive because no one's they would think no one would buy it. But the reason why is because they don't have it. And like I said before, we're in minority group, also the largest minority group. And when it comes into consumers, like we live in a consumer driven world. So like I said before, like where I'm constantly looking at to see what they do to include people and to have people at the forefront or the brand represented in that way. So I think you don't know until you try it for one. And I think if you think I would say to them, if think if you think that you probably shouldn't have a fashion brand.

Peta [00:19:18] And also to me it just highlights that they don't know any disabled people.

James [00:19:22] Exactly why it's important, why they should have a person with a disability on their team to provide that for them.

Peta [00:19:28] I mean, yes, one in five Australians have a disability. But also think about all our friends and family that know us and love us and have that instinct for us as well. So it's a huge market that they're simply ignoring. So where do you see the future of fashion? James Power.

James [00:19:47] I think we're moving into a world where we're making it known that fashion is for everyone. So I believe that fashion will just become for everyone soon, and it won't be so segregated in their marketing, in their how they present it to consumers, how people buy fashion. I think in the last like for me in the last five years, I think fashion has really taken a turn in the way that we're using it, to express it, to express ourselves. And I think the more that becomes known, the more people are dressing for expression or how they feel. So, yeah, like even dopamine dressing and those types of things, I think that will be probably the key focus in the next five years that we're moving forward.

Peta [00:20:39] I couldn't agree with you more. I personally dress very much for people to come up and ask me where my top was from rather than why you in a wheelchair. So fashion is very important to me.

James [00:20:51] And we dress how we feel, like I know I'll wake up and if I feel like crap, I would just wear baggy clothes. Or if I wake up and want to go somewhere and look really good, I change my exact style. So I always dress for how I feel.

Peta [00:21:05] Well, thank you so much for talking to me today. I thoroughly enjoyed. To think that two disabled people are part of the Melbourne Typo Fashion Festival, talking about fashion really is testament to where the where it's all going in. I'm super excited.

James [00:21:21] It's great. Thank you.

Peta [00:21:23] Before I end, does anybody have any questions for James or myself?

Audience member 1 [00:21:29] You said that you look at the way brands represent disabled people. Do you also look at the way brands make their stores accessible and their online content accessible?

James [00:21:39] Personally, no. But I do have it in mind. I probably selfishly don't look at it in that way because I think you don't really look at anything unless it affects you, which is, I know, very closed off. So I probably don't have my eye out for that. But I know when I am talking to brands or providing feedback on their website or even in their stores, I always make sure whether they have an accessible change room or low accessibility for low vision on their websites. But it is something that I actually don't have in my mind, so but an important one.

Peta [00:22:18] Yeah, it's a bit like plus size fashion as well. I mean, it's one of those things that, yes, some brands now have it, but it's only online and it's like, well, that's not inclusive.

James [00:22:32] So it's like I said, I'm just being honest. Like, I feel like if it's something like, I don't probably keep my eye out for it unless I've been. Yeah.

Peta [00:22:42] I mean, I personally find physical stores very inaccessible. I barely go to them because, one, I can't reach anything on a rack. Two, I'm petrified. I'm going to run something over and pull over, pull everything over out of that before. And three, I don't want to wear anything if the brand has a stiff out the front, because that's just indicating that they don't think about disabled people wearing their brand. So I'm not giving them my money.

James [00:23:09] Yeah, I think that would probably be like the next level of focus that really needs to brands and stores really need to focus on providing accessible space so that everyone is included in that way, not just marketing.

Peta [00:23:26] Also, is there websites accessible to people who use screen readers, contrast, all that sort of thing? There's so much more to be done.

Audience member 2 [00:23:36] Hi. I'm a teacher at a specialist school out of East Gippsland. And in my class I have teenage girls that have got eight year old bodies. But I'd like to dress like their peers. Do you know of any brands that would cater for this sort of age group that size?

James [00:23:54] I used to work in a special school. Um, good age. Appropriate question. I'm. Personally, I'm not really sure. Actually.

Peta [00:24:03] Well, I mean, I personally I look at the children's stuff and think, gosh, I want to pay half of it myself. But like, I like no, not from an accessibility point of view. But I know Seed does some really cool stuff that I personally would want to wear if it was in the adult section. But no, I probably am not the right person to ask. I'm really sorry.

Audience member 3 [00:24:24] Can you tell me what you're doing for Fashion festival?

James [00:24:28] I am walking in Urban Oasis on Thursday and the closing show. And then the rest of the week I'll be attending.

Peta [00:24:38] So I am doing something very brave. I on the 8th of March on International Women's Day, I'm stripping down to my bra and undies to prove that all bodies are beautiful in the fashion industry. So if you'd like to come along, we'd love to have more bodies because all bodies are beautiful. Well, thank you, everyone, for listening to us today. We really, really appreciate it. We hope you've enjoyed it. Have a lovely Saturday.

James [00:25:06] Thank you. [audience cheer]


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