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Christina Stephens stars in AFTERPAY Australian Fashion Week | World’s first quadriplegic designer

Christina Stephens stars in AFTERPAY Australian Fashion Week, with World’s first quadriplegic designer, Carol Taylor and five models with disabilities

Jessie Sadler and Carol Taylor Since launching in March 2020 by Brisbane-based, former energy-expert-turned-fashion-designer, Jessie Sadler, Christina Stephens has created beautiful, quality, and on-trend adaptive clothing for women and men living with short or long-term disabilities – something more than 20% of the population live with. In just two short years, it’s quadrupled its retail revenue, grown its wholesale and drop-shipping revenue by 300%, been snapped up by major retailers including THE ICONIC, and is set to feature in Afterpay’s Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) in May as part of the Adaptive Clothing Collective runway. Now, Mercedes Benz runway designer, award-winning lawyer, artist and a disability advocate Carol Taylor has joined Australia’s adaptive fashion success story Christina Stephens, as a co-owner and as the world’s first quadriplegic fashion designer – with the aim to shake up the global ‘mainstream’ fashion industry. And this week, Thursday 12 May at 10am at Carriageworks in Sydney, the brand is starring in the FIRST EVER AfterPay Australian Fashion Week show as part of the first dedicated adaptive fashion show. It’s the next leap forward for this pioneering brand disrupting the fashion industry, creating designs for people with disabilities and changing bodies. A life-altering injury paved a new career path and passion for Taylor For Taylor, bringing her creative ideas to life quickly went from designing out of necessity, to pursuing a passion and forging a new career. In 2001, an accident left lawyer and artist Taylor a quadriplegic. Her spinal cord was severed, resulting in complete paralysis from the chest down. Despite having only some arm movement but a complete lack of hand or finger movement, Taylor was determined to find and embrace the beauty of life. She spent years teaching herself to use her paralysed hands and with the help of makeshift modifications found a way to draw, paint, and create. “I’ve always loved fashion, even from childhood, and sustaining an injury didn’t change that,” Taylor said. “Fashion affects our core sense of identity, confidence, and the way the outside world treats us.” “I might be on wheels, but fashion moves me forward. That moment I started to wear colour and find, create and make clothing to feel like the person I was pre-injury, it was cathartic. It changed me – and put me on the road to good mental health. That’s how powerful clothing is,” Taylor said. In 2019 Taylor was invited to showcase her own collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Festival in Brisbane describing her style as assertive, colourful, and feminine. Since then, Sadler and Taylor have been cheering on each other’s successes. But this year, the duo made the decision to team up, with the collective mission to change what’s considered ‘mainstream fashion’. “Christina Stephens as a label has always been about collaboration over competition,” Sadler says. “If we want to see true progress in mainstream fashion, it starts by working as ‘one’.” Taylor says, “I was very much aware of Jessie and the amazing things she was doing. In the end we decided collaborating was much better than competing.” And this collaboration has come both - despite and because of – their very different approaches to design. Taylor will continue to practice law to support her on-going advocacy work in the disability community and as a non-executive board member of various organisations. A new elevated collection to launch at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week Taylor joins Christina Stephens in the lead up to AAFW in May ‘22, where she has co-designed a new collection alongside Sadler, for the Adaptive Clothing Collective runway, of which Christina Stephens is a founding member. This new collection is a blend of their unique styles bringing an elevated, colourful and glamorous punch to the brand. “The next collection feels like an evolution of the Christina Stephens label. We’ve worked on some completely new, exciting, and thought-provoking pieces,” Sadler says. “Christina Stephens’ classic style is still front and centre of our design philosophy, but now Carol weaves the colour and glamour into our designs our customers have been asking for. “The core Christina Stephens principles remain the same - our designs can be worn by anyone,” Sadler says. “But we’re giving more consideration to people with specific conditions and abilities, so that our designs are universal.” Taylor says the designs are eye opening, unexpected and provocative – with one special made to order piece. “There’s something very special that has been designed for the girl that can’t stand up,” Taylor says. “I always say to my son – nothing ever changes if everything stays the same, so be that change maker. I hope that’s what this collection will do. “This is a big market…retailers like Myer, David Jones…they need to realise this is a product that’s wanted. People want this…build it and they will come.” Taylor says. While Taylor and Sadler remain tight-lipped about the designs, they’ve said all pieces will go on pre-sale following the show. Christina Stephens is also releasing the next Menswear Collection post-AAFW, with Sadler saying it’s the label’s most stylish release to date. “We’ve worked closely with our community to design adaptive clothing for men with a range of abilities to move freely, while feeling stylish for so many occasions. “From easy-fit tees and dress shirts, to pieces that are a bit more formal, where freedom, accessibility and design enable you to move from the office to a Sunday brunch, a day at the races, or a night out to dinner,” Sadler says. Also starring in the show are five high-profile disability leaders as our Christina Stephens models, leading our AAFW Runway next Thursday. All are incredible advocates and those living with disabilities and we're so grateful to have them as part of our CS journey for AAFW. - Dinesh Palipana OAM is an Australian doctor, lawyer, scientist and disability advocate and 2021 Queensland Australian of the Year. - Lisa Cox is an internationally respected disability advocate whose been a friend, 'advisor' and a model to Christina Stephen's since our launch. - Suzanne Berry is an Australian T-10 complete paraplegic as well as an artist and author. - Emma Carey was only 20 years old when she suffered shocking injuries in a parachuting accident that left her a paraplegic. Yet years later, she believes the experience ultimately changed her life for the better. Em is a walking paraplegic. - Bella Herrmann is 20 years old and wears a prosthetic leg. She was born without a tibia and had to have her leg amputated when she was 18 months old. Bella's previously model in Brisbane's Mercedes Benz Runway in 2019.”

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