Norm breakers I would like to call them. Those standing in the way of what is and what society names it to be. Those coloring outside the pages let alone thinking outside the box. Norm breakers, visionaries and executers, what they are.
As much as the world is coming to some evenly garnered way of thinking due to standards the pioneers set within their own convenience, there are some serene rebels by every corner with views beyond the media walls or the “standard” walls. Who refuse to go by the rules and instead of having society adjust to standards, they do their utmost so standards could adjust to society.
Putting aside all the other norms we have come to settle for, today let’s talk about Fashion and beauty. Beauty, before Social order corrupted the eyes of the beholder that is. Let’s brainstorm on this question for a bit, “Is beauty in the eyes of the beholder? The eyes of the media? Or the globalizing social order? When we think of fashion in general, there are certain ways to how we think of it. That is, there are ways the designers, the models, the hosts and even the guests are preset. Standards we have been living by out of mere habit. That’s where this norm breakers come in. They take a concept and take it to a whole other level. Meet Rigbe G/Hawaria.
Rigbe is a lawyer, Social worker, Mandela Fellowship 2016 Alumni, current YALI East African Regional Advisor, Consultant at her own consultancy organization, a wife and a mother as well. One of the norm breakers I was trying to put the spot light on. And from our article point of view, the drive behind the whole idea.
March 18th 2017, at Sheraton Addis was quite a memorable night. Kenawi Consultancy, US Embassy Addis Abeba & Fashion Designers Association Organized an INCLUSIVE FASHION SHOW first of its kind in Ethiopia with a theme PROMOTING INCLUSION: SHIFTING DISABILITY FROM THE MARGINS TO THE MAINSTREAM.
How did she come up with the idea?
From our interview with Rigebe, she told us her inspiration came from the story of the cannadian Model Winnie Harlow. Winnie just at the age of four was diagnosed with vitiligo, an incurable skin pigmentation disease that causes colorless patches to develop on a person’s body. And yet through all the rough childhood she had, she broke the norm and made it all way to be a model. And so Rigbe thought of a way of implementing that within our society. And she sure did.
“When the idea first came to mind I thought it was some crazy idea. But at the same time I thought it could be a great thing, an eye opener for all. A way to challenge the definition of beauty. To change how disability is perceived by society as something chartable. I wanted people to see that disability could be a manifestation of beauty and uniqueness.” She explained the drive behind her idea.
She then shared her idea of having an inclusive fashion show with the cultural affairs at US Embassy and they loved the idea as it was something they were looking forward in working with. That is, in the area of disability. Next step was approaching designers and models. She talked to the secretary of Fashion Designers Association, Fikirte Addis (Yefikir Designs) and she brought other designers with her. The project was already on a leap so they formed a committee with the FDA president Ejigayehu Hailegiorgis, designer Aida Tadesse and Fikirte Addis.
The project took three months, involved 15 established and upcoming designers and people from eight types of diversities (physically disabled, blind, deaf, deaf & blind, people affected by leprosy, dwarfs, the intellectually disabled and professional models) who took the runway as models which showcased inclusion and redefined beauty.
The objective of the event was to make fashion industry inclusive, Empower women under disability and different stereotypes and for other organizations and individuals in different areas to consider inclusivity within the services they give out.
The whole event was a success even through the challenges she faced. As the project was executed under a voluntary deed, to create a platform for all, convincing the models for the show was a challenge for Rigbe as most of them expected something in return if not payment. But afterwards, it was all for the bigger cause. Lucy garment granted a scholarship for three of the models and the other fashion designers are thinking of hosting an annual inclusive fashion shows including the upcoming Ethiopian Fashion Week.
There is this saying by Mahatma Gandhi , ‘Be the change that you wish to see in the world.’ That’s what Rigbe did. Instead of waiting on for the society to adjust, she took the first step, carved the norms out and redefined fashion. She wanted to change how people perceived fashion and she proposed a way for others to follow as well.
And here is what she hast to say to all:
“I advise people to think of ways to make their services inclusive and accessible. Let’s be open for everybody and let us not narrow down the definition of beauty.”