A New Vanguard Of Disabled Talent Covers British Vogue’s May 2023 Issu
By Edward Enninful, British Vogue
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was 2018 and I had just taken my seat at Christopher Bailey’s final runway show for Burberry when Sinéad Burke, one of this era’s crucial fashion disruptors, as well as an enthralling conversationalist, made her way across to me with a look of purpose in her eye.
I knew from the moment we first spoke that we would go on to work together. Soon, we photographed Sinéad for the magazine to spotlight her activism at the axis of disability and fashion, before she became a contributing editor and later was chosen as one of the Duchess of Sussex’s Forces for Change for the September 2019 cover.
But we always wanted to do more. This month’s issue – featuring 19 brilliant, beautiful and impactful Disabled talents from across fashion, sport, the arts and activism – was a long time in the planning. For the best part of a year, Sinéad, who is CEO of the accessibility consultancy Tilting the Lens, came on board as consultant editor for the project, and has helped steer the team at Vogue House in producing these celebratory portraits and interviews. It was a necessary and overdue education for all – and taught us many lessons we will carry forward into the future..
To me, it also felt personal, as I’m sure it will to many of you. As a person with a chronic blood disorder, as well as complicated issues with my sight and hearing, I can begin to imagine how the everyday world can feel hostile and inaccessible to the needs of the individual.
So I am thrilled to see Sinéad joined on May’s covers by models Ellie Goldstein and Aaron Rose Philip, actor Selma Blair, and Justina Miles, who millions of people watched perform Rihanna’s Super Bowl Halftime Show in American Sign Language. Inside, there are stories by journalists such as Frances Ryan, whose no-holds-barred profile of Blair is essential reading, and Lottie Jackson, who brings to life many of those featured, from racing car driver Nicolas Hamilton’s tenacity to comedian Rosie Jones’s charisma.
Ultimately, these covers and portfolio ask a question: we all engage with fashion, but does fashion engage with all of us? “Dynamic, daring and Disabled” reads our cover. Dynamism of spirit, of talent, of imagination, is what the stars of this issue have in spades. It is this quality that the industry – and here I include Vogue – must also lean into if it is to better serve the Disabled community, alongside the Disabled community, with jobs, in the design of retail spaces, of photography studios, of digital interfaces, events, communications and, of course, clothes.
Disability should feel personal to us all. Some 16 million people in the UK are Disabled, with millions more Disabled-adjacent, whether visibly or invisibly. The time has come for us to get real about who we are as a society, and for fashion to build a better, more accessible and inclusive industry.
Read the original article and more from British Vogue here.