Christina Stephen’s AFTERPAY Australian Fashion Week debuts provocative ‘UNWRAPPED’ adaptive collection revolutionising ‘mainstream’ fashion
On May 12, Australia’s iconic adaptive fashion brand Christina Stephens headlined the first-ever adaptive clothing runway at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, debuting selected pieces from their all-new UNWRAPPED collection.
Designed by the world’s first quadriplegic fashion designer and co-owner Carol Taylor and founder Jessie Sadler, the UNWRAPPED collection gives a whole new meaning to universal fashion - capturing hearts and headlines across the world.
Receiving a standing ovation with tears aplenty, disability advocates with a range of lived experiences modelled selected pieces from the iconic UNWRAPPED mens and womens collection.
Walking paraplegic and disability advocate Emma Carey wore the centrepiece of the show in an accessible aqua blue three-piece lingerie set - the crowning jewel and inspiration for the entire collection.
Doctor, lawyer and former Queensland Australian of the Year, Dinesh Palipana wore a completely accessible men's tailored suit featuring magnetic side zippers and closures, cropped, trim-free formal trousers and a sharp dress shirt, fit for any wedding or race day.
Author and advocate Lisa Cox wore a first-of-its-kind seated elegant formal gown, made from stunning silk organza and which could be wrapped around the female while she is seated. Model Bella Hermann has a prosthetic limb and wore a 1960s inspired cropped jacket and mini skirt.
Opening the Christina Stephens show was artist, author and disability advocate Suzanne Berry who made a statement in vegan pleather pants with full length side zippers and a cropped, bright orange jacket, with unique elbow features that allow for ease of movement in a wheelchair.
“Overwhelming is the only way I can put into words the reaction. The love was so immense I couldn’t hold my tears back on the runway once I saw the standing ovation, I’m truly humbled.” said Taylor.
“I can’t even imagine how we’re going to feel seeing “unwrapped” on customers all around Australia, it’s truly why we did this, to disrupt the adaptive scene as you know it” said Taylor.
The full UNWRAPPED collection will be available for pre-orders soon.
UNWRAPPED adaptive lingerie set worn by Emma Carey - the piece inspiring the full collection
After Lead Designer and Partner Carol Taylor heard the story of a new quadriplegic groom who didn’t feel he’d be able to ‘unwrap’ his able-bodied bride on their wedding night, Taylor knew she had to fix that, while breaking away from the plain, medical grade underwear currently on the adaptive market.
With the partner in mind, this lingerie set featuring Swarovski crystal embroidered loops, is designed to easily and sexily take off and aims to open the conversation around intimacy, sexuality and disability also.
“Unfortunately, our community is often asked about the mechanics of how sex works with a disability. Rarely is there a focus on the feeling, passion and intimacy side which just reinforces the harmful stereotype people with disabilities don’t want to have or enjoy sex,” said Taylor.
“After a parachuting accident, I became an incomplete paraplegic, meaning I had to learn to walk all over again. So from that to now walking independently down the fashion week runway in this design, is just surreal,” Carey added.
UNWRAPPED electric blue tailored suit worn by Dr Dinesh Palipana (OAM)
Prior to Carey on the runway was doctor, lawyer, advocate and former Queensland Australian of the Year, Dr Dinesh Palipana (OAM), who brought his unmissable smile, while wearing an electric blue suit.
Featuring a cropped waistcoat to avoid bunching for those seated, it came equipped with magnetic fastenings.
“Particularly as a male in a wheelchair, it’s hard to find adaptive clothes suitable for formal occasions that are still stylish and have an element of colour. So to see this is just really reassuring that we’re finally being recognised in the adaptive market,” Palipana said.
UNWRAPPED Emerald Green formal gown worn by Lisa Cox
Capturing eyes from across the room was Lisa Cox, an author and disability advocate, flaunting the emerald green formal gown designed for ‘the girl who can’t stand up’.
With minimal fabric on the back, the dress is designed to reduce the risk of pressure sores.
“The skirt section completely detaches at the waist with magnetic buttons so it can be removed independently and the nude, mesh detail at the top makes anyone feel absolutely beautiful,” said Taylor.
“Good design doesn't end with magnetic buttons and magnetic zips, this is just the beginning,” Taylor said.
“When designing for someone in a wheelchair it's not just about designing for someone in a seated position, there's so much more to be considered.
“A seam placed in the wrong position can cause a pressure injury and all of a sudden you're out of action for months.
“Too much fabric in the wrong spot can cause excruciating nerve pain putting the kibosh on any plans you had for the day.
“This is where lived experience really comes into its own and good design from the outset can assist with some of these issues – and it’s part of everything we’re creating at Christina Stephens.”
UNWRAPPED two-toned 60s inspired suit worn by Bella Hermann
Powerful in pink, model Bella Hermann met Taylor while modelling at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Bella strutted the runway wearing the two-toned hot pink and orange two-piece with detailing and zips.
“With the reinforced fabric, I can step into the skirt without it tearing, and the cropped jacket featuring lantern sleeves just oozes fun and packs a punch of glamour,” Hermann said.
UNWRAPPED silk kaftan top and high-waisted velvet green pants
Universally designed so a person with or without a disability can make a colourful statement, the Christina Stephens outfit worn by able-bodied disability ally Elise Van Mierlo, included a dynamic silk kaftan-style top and generously high-waisted velvet green pants with complete comfort in mind.
“High-waisted pants not only are stylish, but they are also incredibly comfortable for wheelchair users, to avoid fabric digging in at the waist. Silk is my best friend, it’s flowy, gentle on the skin and particularly kind on areas with nerve pain,” Taylor said.
Opening the show in absolute class was Suzanne Berry, dripping in vibrancy in a look that is nothing like anything on the adaptive market, yet still has maximum accessibility and comfort for wheelchair users.
“Most pants on the market are cloth or linen which is great but leather is just that extra style statement that completes an outfit, and the pants actually have a bamboo fibre panel at the back for breathability on wheelchair users' legs,” Berry explained.
Generating Australia wide coverage and international features, it’s clear to see the headline-making reason behind why this collection is pioneering the change for adaptive fashion in a market that was once just about necessity and minimal focus on provocative design.