New York Fashion Week: ‘Role Models, Not Runway Models’
When a person is lacking in self-confidence, there is nothing more confidence-boosting than being invited to walk down a New York Fashion Week runway, reminding that person of just how beautiful they really are.
For 31-year-old Karen Crespo from California, that is exactly what it was like.
Karen has always been interested in fashion, but a battle with bacterial meningitis three years ago meant that doctors had to amputate both her arms and both her legs. Karen was then in a coma for more than two weeks before spending a further five months in an intensive care unit.
After being left with a body she didn’t recognise and struggled to love, walking down the runway seemed like an impossible dream for Karen.
But then, in February, Karen read about a fashion show from Carrie Hammer, a fashion designer who specialised in women’s professional yet stylish clothing. What caught Karen’s attention was that one of Carrie’s models was Danielle Sheypuk, who had become the first ever runway model in a wheelchair.
“I thought, ‘This is amazing, how someone would break the boundaries and let someone in a wheelchair be in New York Fashion Week!’” Karen said. It spurred her to contact Carrie, to thank her for proving that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, with no right or wrong.
Carrie responded by inviting Karen to participate in Role Models, Not Runway Models, part of her New York Fashion Week show which features accomplished women with empowering stories to share, each flaunting a piece from Carrie’s latest collection – in this case, the SS15 (Spring/Summer 2015).
New prosthetics were also arranged for Karen after Carrie learned that a recent order of custom-made prosthetics – worth around $100,000/£62,000 – had gone missing from her porch shortly after being delivered.
On September 5, last Friday, Karen Crespo became the first quadruple-amputee to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week. She wore a red, fitted A-line gown that falls just below the knee and a scooped back. The dress was also named “The Karen” in honour of its wearer.
Describing the experience, Karen speculated that everything she had been through had been meant to happen so that she could inspire and make a difference in someone else’s life.
“I have a totally different perspective on things,” she explained. “Just seeing all those faces when I walked out there, and knowing that hopefully I’ll be able to make a difference and be a role model for other people with disabilities [gave me confidence].”
Carrie said that the whole point of her show was to accentuate the differences among people. “My models definitely way outshine my clothes – I don’t mind!” she declared. “Beauty lies in our differences. There isn’t one slim ideal beauty, but that is what fashion has become all about. My line is all about highlighting the beauty in the differences and making sure that the women feel confident and beautiful in their individualities.”