Inspiration London Paralympian athlete Anne Wafula-Strike, MBE unveiled a ‘catwalk’ designer dress made of 3500 train tickets in London today – in a bid to raise awareness of Polio and Post Polio Syndrome (PPS).
Why can a woman in a wheelchair not benefit from designer fashion in the way that ‘able bodied’ people can? Well now they can! As far as we’re aware, this is a world first – the first ever designer dress made to not only be worn by a wheelchair user – but to totally be designed around the wheelchair itself.
The bespoke dress has been made by haute couture designer Aleah Leigh for Anne, an Ambassador of The British Polio Fellowship.
Anne said: “I am a big believer that disability is no bar to anything, and the greatest disability of all is in fact how some people think. Polio and PPS has not stopped me fulfilling my sporting or career ambitions and it should not stop people looking good. Just because you use a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean you can’t be sexy and glamorous and this designer dress is a great way to get that message across. It was a wonderful, liberating feeling to turn a few heads today and challenge some misconceptions about disability, Polio and PPS along the way.”
The dress took designer Aleah Leigh 21 days to produce. She was challenged to deliver a great look, with a ‘wheelchair friendly’ dress and to do this using an unusual material to promote disability and PPS in a new and positive way.
“Making a dress out of train tickets was a challenge, but one I have thoroughly enjoyed,” said Aleah. “Anne is right, of course. People in wheelchairs can have designer dresses too.”
It is hoped the ticket dress will help Anne and The British Polio Fellowship draw attention to Polio and PPS in the charity’s 75th anniversary year.
The intention is not that everyone should be seen wearing such creations next week – but to highlight the serious lack of fashion choices out there for those living with disability caused by Polio and PPS and indeed the less able community generally. While some bold innovators are striving to deliver something desirable rather than dowdy, Anne and Aleah are trailblazing for a real change in attitudes and to challenge misconceptions.
Clothing has been produced to suit every conceivable person, working environment and situation – wetsuits, climbing gear, sportswear, spacesuits, you name it – the only thing you will draw a blank on is the disabled. Has ever one group been so completely ignored? When normal clothing (especially for wheelchair users) is not always suitable, it’s time to set things right and not with just functional clothes – it’s time to put the glamour the style and the sex into disabled fashion.
As one of the 120,000 people in the UK living with Post-Polio Syndrome (PPS) and an ambassador for the charity, the former Paralympian and Team GB legend Anne Wafula-Strike (just made an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours) was the perfect choice to wear a designer dress for wheelchair users. Anne has been tireless in her support of The British Polio Fellowship, its members and messages.
Anne was guest of honour at this year’s National Indoor Games in Leicester and most recently, delivered such an impassioned speech to a Rotary breakfast meeting on Polio in London, that she was invited to deliver the same speech in Sydney, Australia. The late effects of Polio and PPS causes weakness, muscle fatigue and difficulty breathing for thousands of the charity’s members and others, and many find it hard getting around, via wheelchair or mobility scooter, while even those who can manage with callipers do sometimes need additional help.
The British Polio Fellowship is a charity dedicated to helping, supporting and empowering those in the UK living with the late effects of Polio and PPS. For more details or information on The British Polio Fellowship, call us on 0800 043 1935, email at email@example.com or visit the website at www.britishpolio.org.uk