Antonio Urzi brings diversity to the catwalks at Milan Fashion Week

From outfits for Lady Gaga and Beyonce to disabled fashion: Antonio Urzi, a
long-time collaborator with Armani, is trying to revolutionise Milan
fashion week with creations designed for amputees.

Celebrities Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna and Britney Spears have all worn his
masterpieces, but Urzi’s latest face is hunky British amputee Jack Eyers,
the star of a radically different catwalk show which mixes able-bodied and
disabled models.

“My life’s changed dramatically, it’s a full-on roller coaster ride,” said
Eyers, who was born with a rare condition which meant his right leg failed
to grow properly, leading him to decide to have it amputated when he was
16.

Now 25, the personal trainer-turned-model has got two years of work in the
fashion industry under his belt, and is clearly thrilled to be in Milan,
sporting a large silver suit-of-armour type outfit designed especially for
him.

“It actually blends into the leg,” he tells AFP, showing off his prosthetic
limb, which Urzi has incorporated into the quirky, gladiatorial design.

‘Disability as accessory’

“He’s using my leg and disability as an accessory as part of his fashion
clothes. I think that’s great,” he says with a grin. Urzi, who did not go
to design school but honed his art during a job as a dancer in nightclubs
— where he made his own special-effects outfits — specialises in rigid
materials such as aluminium and plexiglass.

This year has been his first venture into disabled fashion and he created
the collection for free, to draw awareness to a gap in the luxury clothes
line. “The big players, the important maisons (fashion houses), should start
thinking differently and contribute because the world is full of disabled
people… who want to look good just like us,” he said, slamming the
industry
as “snobbish” and “squalid.”

“If someone is missing an arm or a leg it makes little difference on an
artistic level, I can still create a sculpture,” he said, before rushing off
to organise the so-called “static-dynamic” catwalk, where models sporting
futuristic body suits and large hooped shoulder pads posed on stands.

FTL Moda, which promotes ‘Made in Italy’, presented “Loving You” on Sunday
after a stop at New York’s fashion week, where it took to the runway in
collaboration with Italy’s Fondazione Vertical, a spinal cord injuries
research foundation.

FTL president Ilaria Niccolini says she believes “we’re ready for this.”
“This presentation wants to show the world that the most prestigious places
for fashion are becoming open to disability,” she told AFP in English.

“Our top masons are really trying to find the new look for the runway.
We’ve seen so much in the fashion world already, sometimes we tend to go
loud, scandalise, confront — while we just need to look around” to find
diversity.

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‘Every runway in the world’

Eyers admits it’s not easy to persuade designers to use disabled models. “A
lot have said they are afraid to use us for a number of reasons, they don’t
want to do something that would offend us or the public.

“They’re scared, they don’t know how to use us, how their clothes would fit
on a wheelchair model or an amputee — also they don’t want the attention to
be on the model rather than the clothes,” he said.

But since appearing in the London 2012 Paralympics’ opening ceremony and
going on to star in a number of advertisements, he says he has overcome the
lack of confidence he suffered as a child and believes fashion can do the
same
for others.

“If you feel like you look good then you feel great. Getting more disabled
people in fashion is going to help with their heads,” he said.

As models from New York’s Global Disability Inclusion and London’s Models
of Diversity take up their places among their able-bodied colleagues under
the
bright lights, Niccolini says she will not be deterred.

“Brands, actors, performers in general are endorsing this concept and I
hope this will be absolutely normal, let’s say, in two years.” By then,
she says, you will get disabled models “included in every single
runway in the world.” (Ella Ide, AFP)

Photos: AFP

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