New Zealand Fashion Week has been opened by a person with a physical disability for the first time tonight.

Grace Stratton, an entrepreneur and accessibility advocate, spoke at the event's official opening function at the Auckland Town Hall this evening.

Stratton, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, said her high-profile role at Fashion Week was a great chance to show what diversity in the industry looked like in practice.

"People talk about diversity and inclusion a lot, and the discussion is great, but that discussion has to follow through and turn into action," she told the Herald.


The 19-year-old founded All is for All earlier this year, a world-first website which helps disabled people navigate the fashion world and buy products online. It was sparked by her frustration at ordering a pair of $200 pants which came with an extra tie, meaning she needed her parents' help putting them on.

The company is also a modelling agency and advises labels on how to make their products and service more accessible. The local industry had been very responsive, she said. Accessibility and diversity were no longer just "something nice to talk about" - buyers were demanding it.

Some labels already had initiatives in place. Ruby offered customised fit-outs for people with disabilities. And after consulting with All is for All, twenty-seven names introduced alt-text on its website, which describes images to blind shoppers.

Stratton said the company's work was not about pointing fingers, but instead highlighting that up to 1 million New Zealanders had "access needs" and what that meant for them in practical terms.

That did not mean just designing a "special line" for disabled people, she said.

"For a long time the way that we have served people with access needs has been by designing something different," she said.

"So if you were to think about architecture, the way that we serve disabled people in architecture still is by designing them a separate entrance or separate space, putting a ramp in.

"My belief system is that universal design means that you need to integrate into your original design accessibility for people with a disability."


This year's NZ Fashion Week has billed itself as the most diverse, with the first-ever show dedicated to intellectually disabled people. It was also championing diversity in modelling talent, with commitments to transgender, ethnically diverse and "size diverse" models.