Modelle e Rotelle (translated to “Models and Wheels) is the only fashion event of its kind. People in the disability world have been trying to get disabled models integrated in the fashion world for years, and while there’s been some hits, it’s been a limping struggle. When was the last time you saw someone a wheelchair rolling down the catwalk? That’s what I thought…
That’s why I’d love Modelle e Rotelle. I believe this is how disabled models will finally break into the industry. We all know the human eye can get bored; we need variation, even when watching models on a catwalk. This is why designers are afraid of using just models in wheelchairs. So the idea, mixing AB models and disabled models together in a grand showcase, has come about, and the show keeps getting bigger each year.
Modelle e Rotelle happens at the Sheraton in Rome each December. The show is in its third year and had their second show last month, December 1, 2012, with models from all over the world participating. The show had several Italian models (many of whom were disabled Italian women who just happened to be beautiful and into fashion), Russian models, UK models (including Deb Van der Putten, one of the most accomplished amputee models in the world) and Tamara Mena, a paraplegic from California, from the United States.
In addition to the show being an integrated fashion show, it was also a beauty pageant for the models with disabilities on-stage – the 2012 Ms. Rotelle pageant (gah Europeans couldn’t help themselves and had to put a pageant into a perfectly fine fashion show). If you watch this show’s official video here, you can see who wins (a pretty young thing from Russia).
Of course something this forward-thinking re: exposing disability to the masses wasn’t dreamed up by an able-bodied person. No, it was created by Fabrizio Bartoccioni, a 35 year old C7 quad who founded Vertical Foundation, Italy’s only foundation dedicated to spinal cord injury research. Fabrizio himself was injured when he was 17 years in a diving accident. After his injury, he traveled to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis in an effort to get better, and after returning home, he started the foundation.
What’s especially cool about Tamara Mena is that not only was she a model, she was part of the media and interviewed models and designers backstage. In this 15 minute video (scroll to the bottom of the page), you can watch her do her thing (quite adorable). I love her spirit and really, everything Tamara stands for (she’s also a motivational speaker; make sure you check out her site).
Interested in taking part in the show? Have you had dreams of modeling in Italy but than ever thought it could happen? This is your best chance yet, and they’re always looking for more models, so make sure you check out their website.
I sincerely hope Modelle e Rotelle is here for years to come. With several high fashion sponsors like Altaroma and L’Oreal, the odds are good that this show could start a trend. Heck, maybe the Push Girls should do an appearance at Modelle Rottelle in 2013?
Whether you care about fashion or not, you gotta love the spirit of Modelle Rotelle. Hopefully we’ll see more of this stateside in the next coming couple of years.
– Official page: Modelle e Rotelle 2012