As the push for more diverse representation in the fashion industry continues to move full steam ahead, one American brand presented its most inclusive show yet at New York Fashion Week over the weekend. New York-based label The Blonds invited model Jillian Mercado to make her runway debut during its Fall/Winter 2020 collection in a self-powered wheelchair. Donning a golden sheer bodysuit adorned with feathers and beaded embellishments along with an elaborate matching headpiece, Mercado was a vision of all that glitters in an unforgettable demonstration of the all-embracing forces of fashion.
Although this was Mercado’s first runway, it is by no means her first foray into modeling. Formerly appearing in campaigns for Diesel and Nordstrom, the IMG model who suffers from muscular dystrophy is an outspoken activist for others around the world with disabilities who feel “unseen and unheard”. However, this NYFW moment was an “opportunity of a lifetime” for Mercado, who detailed the “countless wars” she’s had to overcome to help her achieve this goal on Instagram yesterday.
“For the countless of times that we all have shouted for respect and equal representation. Or for the times other people speak for us, not with us. For when we felt like we just didn’t belong in this world because no one thought that we were capable of doing anything. The times where people speak to everyone about our problems or our needs but us,” she wrote.
Mercado not only poignantly dedicated this career “milestone” to others who feel the same pangs of self-doubt and lack of representation but also to the younger version of herself who always loved the world of fashion but wondered “if she actually belonged”.
“This moment is brought to you by a young girl…wondering if they would actually accept her for being exactly who she is, even though she never saw someone who had a visible disability in those magazines or television. Imagining what that would look like was nothing but a dream, a fantasy. One that she was told again and again that it would never be possible, that the world wasn’t ready, that the world wouldn’t give her a chance. This moment. This exact moment, It’s for you.”
Co-founded by designer Phillipe Blond and creative director David Blond in 2007, The Blonds is known for its “glamorously over-the-top” creations that cater specifically to the who’s whos of the entertainment industry, from single-name pop icons Beyoncé, Madonna, and Rihanna to former Vogue Arabia cover stars Winnie Harlow and Halima Aden. Often dressing the superstars for performances more theatrical than musical in skin-tight bodysuits that have no shortage of sparkle, this luxury apparel brand knows how to heighten the drama. Weaving an eclectic mix of exquisite fabrics and intricate embroidery to create hand-crafted pieces reminiscent of art, The Blonds aims to be a champion of the beautifully unique—including models such as Mercado—to be a catalyst of change.