A Catwalk Fashion Show Championing Those Living with Disabilities is Set to Take Place in Prestwich

Be Beautiful, Be Yourself will take place in Manchester having had to postpone in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

By Emma Davidson | 25 July 2022

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Manchester-based fashion giant, Whispering Smith is teaming up with the North West based charity, The Friendship Circle, to present a show celebrating the city’s diversity. 

Whispering Smith, which has a HQ based on Great Ducie Street, Cheetham Hill, is also donating £5,000 to the charity’s crusade to raise funds which will help their lifeline work over the next year. 

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.”

Those taking part in the event will be following in the footsteps of fashion’s move towards greater visibility for disabled and visibly different models – a change led by Britain’s Ellie Goldstein, the Down Syndrome model who has fronted campaigns for Gucci and Adidas.

Championing diversity and enabling those with disabilities to live full lives sits at the heart of The Friendship Circle’s work, with over 160 people working with the charity across the region. At September’s event, models, aged 21 to 40, will be joined on stage by some of the volunteers – 150 in total who have worked with the charity which strives to change perceptions and break down the barriers faced by people with disabilities in the community.

The show will take place on the 14th and 15th of September at the Hilton Suite in Prestwich and will see two groups of models entertaining guests. Deborah Joseph, the Editor-in-Chief of fashion bible, Glamour Magazine, will also be in attendance to offer her support. Thursday 15th has already sold-out, but tickets are still available for the extra Wednesday date.

Mimi Lyons, Fundraising 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, and 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.”

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

Commenting on taking part 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. 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.”

Member and model, Claudia Edelman, is equally excited saying being involved in the event will provide her with confidence she “never knew she had.”

“Before I joined The Friendship Circle, I was often lonely and bored,” Claudia said. “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.”