Sexy photos, right?! Thanks! We think so too. But what you might not see in these selectively styled, perfectly poised images, is the laser precision and the extra attention to detail that goes into coordinating an accessible fashion shoot. 

Having recently released their second collection of adaptive fashion for women, Founder of Christina Stephens, the label, Jessie Sadler says they’ve leant a thing or two about what really goes into organising and executing a successful shoot. 

“We are absolutely thrilled with the images and the talent that we were able to pull together for our Collection II campaign - it’s the culmination of practice and ‘learnings’ that has made our photoshoot days run a lot smoother than they did when we first started,” Sadler says.

So, what really goes on behind the seams at an inclusive fashion shoot?


1. There’s a helluva lot to consider BEFORE you even book in the shoot. 

Creating the right campaign message is paramount. Knowing what image you want to project, what *feedback* (read: criticism) you’re likely to receive (and how you’re going to handle it), and what stories can sit alongside the shots, are just some of the extra considerations Christina Stephens considers in the first phase of organising an adaptive fashion shoot. 

Then there’s sourcing the talent to fit the message, from a very small pond of talent. Even though one in five people live with a disability, when we put a call out earlier this year for professional models with disabilities, we were left very underwhelmed. This portion of the industry is severely under-represented, a dilemma we’re hoping to change. 

Then out of the interest we do receive, we want to ensure we remain a diverse brand. Not only do we want to make sure women of all colours and sizes are represented, but we also want to reflect the increasing tide of younger customers purchasing Christina Stephens. 

“When you type “woman with a disability” into any online stock library, chances are the majority of images you’ll get will feature older, grey-haired women sitting in wheelchairs,” Sadler says.

“While this absolutely reflects some of our customers, we’re seeing more and more younger women and men, looking for stylish clothing to suit their needs, that doesn’t feel clinical or so “granny would wear this”.

“Developing that pipeline of authentic talent has become a bit of a subsidiary mission for us. Closing that gap within the fashion and media industries, and celebrating diversity and inclusion are our ultimate goals.”


 2. Then there are considerations DURING the shoot itself

Pick a venue, book it in, invite the crew, show up, and voila! That’s the logistical aspect of a shoot, right?! 

Not if you’re shooting an accessible clothing range! Having REAL models with REAL disabilities or LIVED experience means extra care must be taken when booking EVERY aspect of the shoot. 

Does the studio have wheelchair access? Are the change areas large enough to fit multiple people? Are bathrooms on the same floor? Are there disabled parking spots? 

“You would think that these things are commonplace in major venues nowadays, but sadly, we find that we still have to ask very pointed questions and triple check accessibility before we can guarantee all of our talent will be catered for,” Sadler says. 

“Then we need to ensure that the crew has had adequate training, particularly around the language they use and the sensitivity of the shots we’re after.

“For example, we don’t want a standing model ‘pushing’ a seated model to make a ‘cute’ photo. That’s NOT cute, or the image we want to be associated with.”

Then it’s the little things that can add up on the day and add precious minutes to an already jam-packed run schedule.

“We’ve learned to always allow a lot more time than what we think we need to get a shot. For instance, we’ve learnt that certain disabilities or chronic illnesses mean that our models tire faster, so their workload needs to be carefully considered and factored into the overall timing of the day.” 


3. And of course, then there’s the AFTERmath

Recruiting models with lived disabilities and experiences is something that we’ve been both praised and criticised for doing. 

When our photos hit social media, many people were quick to praise us for being #inclusive, but unfortunately, we also received a lot of backlash. People questioned our models’ authenticity, accusing us of staging our shots, and not focusing enough on people with *real* disabilities. 

“We understand that we’ll never please everyone, but part of our job is to help educate the wider audience. Some of our models’ disabilities are ‘hidden’, meaning they don’t have an overt physical disability. And some of our models in wheelchairs can also stand and cross their legs! We want to help break down stigmas around what disabilities “should” look like,” Sadler says.

“We’ve even trained and developed talent ourselves to try to remain true to our values and accurately reflect our customer.

But at the end of the day, *managing* all of these extra challenges far outweighs the prospect of not having our label in the market. 

“I’m so proud of Christina Stephens - what we’ve learnt at each photo shoot and how much we’ve grown since we launched. We’ve stuck to our core principals, which has meant we’re now one of the leaders in this emerging category,” Sadler says.  


Tap here to shop for those sexy Christina Stephens clothes pictured above.

August 23, 2021 — Jessie Sadler