Fashion Runway by Differently-Abled Fashion Models in India’s Biggest Fashion Pageant – WWAD 2022



WWAD 2022, The Grand Finale, Season 3
India’s First of Its Kind and Biggest Fashion Pageant for Differently-abled
Fashion and Disability – Walking with a Difference
19th November 2022 at Science City Auditorium, Kolkata

WWAD (Walk With A Difference) is a social initiative by AIMS Media to discover the hidden talents of persons with disabilities in the fields of Clothing, Fashion, Art, Music, Dance and Sports through social events and exhibitions. Since 2010, AIMS Media is building an inclusive and accessible society by imparting new-age skills, capacity building and vocational training to people with disabilities across India and overseas for their sustainable livelihoods and economic inclusion. After the first and second seasons in Delhi and Bangalore in 2015 and 2016 respectively, WWAD took place this year at Kolkata.

Kolkata is a rich hub of indigenous textiles, handloom and fashion. Moreover, organizing the third season of WWAD in Kolkata enables more participation and involvement from the Eastern and North Eastern states of India which surround West Bengal. Lastly, seeing that Kolkata has always been a city of warm and friendly people who are welcoming towards people with disabilities, it was the best choice to be the host city for WWAD 2022.

At the WWAD 2022 Audition that was held on 12th November at The Heritage School, thousands of contestants participated out of which thirty finalists were chosen by a panel of judges composed of renowned personalities from different walks of life. The selected finalists hailed from Assam, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, among other states.

From 13th November to 18th November, the selected finalists underwent an intense and immersive capacity building process where professionals from Delhi to Kolkata groomed them for the finale on 19th November at the Science City Auditorium.

At the Finale, the thirty talents have showcased their skills and confidence through fashion walks exhibiting their abilities beyond their disability. The finalists have walked for designers who have particularly kept adaptability and accessibility in mind while designing and stitching the clothes, right from replacing buttons with velcro for the benefit of individuals with fine motor issues and making reversible garments for visually impaired participants to using fabrics which cause no sensory issues for the finalists.

The Finale has been graced by eminent personalities, film makers, designers and artists who are impressed and inspired by their talent and style and wish to give them opportunities that would impact their lives positively.
Apart from fashion, WWAD 2022 has also opened up avenues for PwDs in the arena of sports by launching Football For All, an initiative of India Khelo Football in collaboration with AIMS Media. Football, as a sport, is an integral part of Bengali life and Football for All promotes this game in a disability friendly manner.

During the event, WWAD started important conversations on fashion vis-a-vis disability. In order to simplify and elucidate on the topic for all WWAD stakeholders and the society at large, the organizers have decided to publish a book on the topic. The cover of a book tentatively titled Fashion Disability Paradox has also been launched at the WWAD 2022 Finale, opening up discourse surrounding fashion and disability in an attempt to bridge the gap.

WWAD 2022 has also featured world class creative art performances by eminent musician Pt. Tanmay Bose and renowned dance choreographer Sangram Mukherjee. The mesmerizing performances have been successful in showcasing the multifaceted talents of the finalists.

All thirty finalists have been awarded with cash prizes and corporate gifts. The finale has been witnessed by corporate CXOs, policy-makers, heads of institutions and bureaucrats who have appreciated and been involved in the upliftment of the community, giving rise to an inclusive and accessible society.

Through WWAD, people with disabilities get a chance to work in an attractive and glamorous industry like fashion. Previously, WWAD participants have walked for huge national and international brands. This year, too, the organizers are confident that the finalists will get a chance to shine bright in the inclusive fashion industry.

Rakesh Dhasmana, the Convenor of this historic event, hopes to take WWAD to a much larger level in future. “WWAD is an attempt to bridge the fashion-disability paradox” he says, “Since fashion, as an industry, grabs a lot of attention in society, the inclusion of PwDs in such a prominent industry will change society for the better.”

Let’s not confine fashion to able-bodied only!

This news story originally appeared at Fashion - Trend Magazine on 12 January 2023