The Manchester fashion show giving people with disabilities the chance to star on the catwalk

The event is taking place over two days in September in Prestwich.

A fashion show which puts people living with disabilities on the catwalk and champions diversity in the industry is coming to Greater Manchester.

Be Beautiful, Be Yourself takes place in Prestwich over two days in September and is returning following a break for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Manchester fashion company Whispering Smith is teaming up with Greater Manchester charity The Friendship Circle to present a show which will celebrate diversity.

When and where is the event and why is it taking place?

Be Beautiful, Be Yourself takes place on 14 and 15 September at the Hilton Suite in Prestwich, with two groups of models in the spotlight on the catwalk.

Models aged 21 to 40 will be joined on stage by some of The Friendship Circle’s volunteers who support the charity in its work which strives to change perceptions and break down the barriers faced by people with disabilities in the community.

The event is part of a shift within the fashion industry to be more inclusive of people with disabilities and have models who are visibly different in the limelight.

Isabel Garman and Sabrina Hart taking part in a previous fashion show

This is a move which has been spearheaded by the likes of Ellie Goldstein, a model who has Down’s Syndrome and has fronted campaigns for Gucci and Adidas.

The Friendship Circle works with more than 160 people in the region.

And Whispering Smith, whose Manchester HQ is based on Great Ducie Street in Cheetham Hill, is donating £5,000 to the charity’s fund-raising efforts to support its vital work over the next year as well as providing outfits for the models to show off.

You can also donate to The Friendship Circle’s work here.

What have the organisers said about the fashion show?

Mimi Lyons, fund-raising director of The Friendship Circle, said: “The Friendship Circle campaigns for awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities allowing them to be seen for who they are and not how they look.

“The fashion show encapsulates what The Friendship Circle is all about, embracing diversity, breaking down the stigma associated with people with disabilities.

“Our vision is of a community where everyone is respected, included, and accepted. We believe that fashion should be for all people with ability, no matter what shape or size.”

Rohina Kumar, director of Whispering Smith, said: “We are proud to support The Friendship Circle and the important work that they do. Fashion and clothing should never be a barrier, and we have made sure to adapt our styles so that all of those taking to the catwalk can feel at their most confident.

“We are also proud to be providing funds that will allow the Friendship Circle to continue their lifeline work.”

What have those taking part in the fashion show said?

Hannah Mendell, who is a member of The Friendship Circle and one of the event models, says she is “so excited” to be taking part in Be Beautiful, Be Yourself.

Hannah was born with a rare developmental condition, Klippel Trenaunay Syndrome, and was bullied in mainstream school because of her disabilities.

She said: “I love clothes, I love fashion but never thought it was a world that was open to someone like me. Growing up, I was always scared of people judging me because I looked different and have a learning disability.

Hannah Mendell on the catwalk

“To be given an opportunity to celebrate who I am in front of so many people is a dream come true. I’m so excited.”

The Friendship Circle member and fellow model, Claudia Edelman, is equally excited and spoke of the difference the charity has made to her life.

Claudia Edelman with Cara Basso

She said: “Before I joined The Friendship Circle, I was often lonely and bored. They were there to pick me up and set me up with a buddy who supported me emotionally and introduced me to other people like myself who also have cerebral palsy.

“Taking part in the fashion show has given me a confidence I never knew I had.”