NEW YORK – At first glance, it looked like your typical show at New York Fashion Week complete with a runway, stunning models and a fashion forward crowd.
However, what unraveled at the venue Punto Space in Midtown Thursday has never been done before.
The participating models were all visually impaired, all getting ready to make their way down the runway – without canes or dogs – with one goal in mind.
“[We’re] opening people’s minds, opening people’s hearts,” Myriam Chalek, the founder and creator of “The Blind Fashion Show,” told PIX11 News.
According to Chalek, who last year made headlines for spearheading the first ever Dwarf fashion show at NYFW, it’s not about pushing the envelope but rather dismissing so-called standards of beauty while proving that a disability does not define the individual.
“You know they are like you and I, they have lives, they go to work, they go to school, they have goals, they have dreams that they want to achieve,” she said. “I guess the only difference is that they believe in themselves more than we do.”
For 18-year-old Cecilia Martinez, her agenda is clear.
“It’s a real unique opportunity that no one has ever done before so I thought why not,” Martinez said, describing why she participated in the one-of-a-kind event. “If I could change people’s perspectives – that is something I would want to take away from all this.”
When the show started, each model rocked the runway and shined, being guided by a fish wire that was made available for those who needed it.
Strutting with confidence, the young women shattered societal assumptions of their limitations.
For April Lufriu, a former Mrs. America and Mrs. World 2012, and her daughter Savannah who both suffer from Retinitis Pigmentosa, their hope is that the show not only starts but continues a conversation.
“When you say Retinitis Pigmentosa, people always question what is that, so this is huge,” Lufriu said. “The international world is going to find out what Retinitis Pigmentosa is and that is a great awareness just being in the fashion show and putting our best foot forward.”
And for Chalek, the show is just another not-so-subtle reminder of where society needs to be.
“I don’t know maybe the next fashion show will be something for amputated people – you know everybody has to be included,” Chalek said. “You know, that’s what it is because we are one and it’s only by working together and forming that unity that we can be more powerful.”
“People don’t realize that we are the majority and we can take control of our lives and make our lives better.”