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Fashion and beauty innovators see opportunities for disability inclusion to cater for ‘trillion-dollar’ market

Fashion and beauty innovators see opportunities for disability inclusion to cater for ‘trillion-dollar’ market

When Parkinson’s disease started preventing makeup artist Terri Bryant from being able to draw the simplest of lines, she knew she had to do something about it.

Ms Bryant is part of a growing movement in the fashion and beauty industry, which is developing products for and with people with disability — recognising a virtually untapped trillion-dollar customer market.

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes tremors, balance problems and weakness, including in grip strength.

Ms Bryant, who has worked for years as a professional makeup artist, started her accessible business Guide Beauty after she began to struggle using her usual cosmetic instruments.

“What I thought were simple techniques that I used to be able to knock out in 15 minutes … I just couldn’t get it quite right. I couldn’t get the control,” she said.

‘I pulled out the toolkit … and started prototypes’

The problems she was having inspired her to design cosmetic tools that were suitable for everyone regardless of their level of disability.

“I ran home, and I pulled out my makeup kit and I pulled out my husband’s tool kit. And I started prototypes,” Ms Bryant explained.

She launched Guide Beauty in 2020 and the business has been a huge success for representing people with disabilities.

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Terri Bryant started her accessible beauty business after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Ms Bryant tried several styles before choosing tools that were built to a universal design standard so they’re comfortable for everyone.

The tools are designed to have large grips, facets for resting, and bring the handle closer to the face to make the application stable and easy to use.

Guide's eyeliner and applicator.
Terry Bryant developed the product line after being diagnosed with the disease.(Supplied: Guide Beauty)

“We could kind of help shift the narrative so that people could understand the value of inclusive representation on a design level, because that makes sense from a business perspective,” she said.

“That makes what is the right thing to do, also a smart business decision.

“The fact the industry has responded so well makes me realise that I don’t think we’re going to be alone in this space for long. I think people are going to be starting to shift their design process.”

From ‘disabled model’ to ‘model with a disability’

Ms Bryant is not the only one to have found their calling.

James Parr admits his journey to becoming one of Australia’s most sought-after models with a disability had a bumpy start.

James Parr on the catwalk during Fashion Week.
James Parr says he doesn’t view his disability as a negative thing.(Getty: Sam Tabone)

When he was dignaosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, and was told his leg needed to be amputated, he thought it would ruin his life.

“When it actually came to the surgeon telling me the best option is to amputate, I was like ‘cool, let’s do it’. And it happened five days later.”

Mr Parr was back in the gym 10 days after the surgery and said the amputation gave him a reason to start modelling, to change the narrative that having a disability was a sad outcome.

“I was like, ‘I don’t align with being sad or I don’t align with it as a negative thing,'” he said.

Amputee James Parr modelling on the catwalk with
James Parr wants the fashion industry to include people of all abilities.(ABC News: Supplied)

“It does bring more opportunities … I think part of why I love it and why I get myself out there and I’m so passionate about it, is representation.”

He hopes to expand his public image from “disabled model” to “model with a disability”.

“I’m trying to really hone my craft … I am a disabled model, but I want to be a model who has a disability … I just want to change that a bit because it’s a bit devaluing.”

Mr Parr has modelled for three years and represents international modelling agency Zebedee — having just walked the 2022 Melbourne fashion week runway with his prosthetic leg in clear view.

Tapping into a trillion-dollar industry

Launched in 2017, Zebedee specifically represents diverse models with a focus on LGBTQA+ talent and those with a disability.

Zebedee senior model booker for Australia and America, Victoria Johnson, said the disability modelling industry was a financially important but often overlooked side of the business.

“In the industry in general, if a brand is using disabled models, 20 per cent of society are disabled, so that’s quite a lot of spending power so that’s quite a lot of people who will see that product if a disabled person is using it,” Ms Johnson said.

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