She’s a journalist, avid twitter user, a fashion and beauty lover, planning for her upcoming wedding and a blogger with the aim of bridging the gap between fashion and disability.
Vicky Kuhn is a very inspirational woman with a blog that shares very similar views and motifs to fashioneyesta.com. Recently, I spoke to Vicky about what inspired her to start her blog and to find out her views on fashion and disability. Here is what she had to say….
Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m a freelance journalist and blogger. Blogging has so much power as it allows anyone to self-publish and write about their views, their passions and their lives. In a world driven by advances in technology (seriously, by the time I’m 40 I expect apple to be on the iPhone 14) we would be mad not to put it to use it for whatever drives us. I love that I can connect with anyone who types in the right search terms into Google and they can read my thoughts on the world, and that I can do the same. The sheer army of warriors I chat with on a regular basis is amazing! These warriors are mums, trying to make sense of the delight, diversity and difficulties of parenting a child. These warriors are style gurus, telling us how to apply our warpaint. These warriors are intrepid travellers and tasters of the world, enlivening their senses with the rich cities and foods the world has to offer. These warriors are disabled and chronically ill people who share their journeys with us. I fall into all of these categories, and I shall elaborate more shortly.
What inspired you to start blogging?
I had a head full of ideas, questions and ongoing narrative that I just wanted to share. I thought that the things that interested me, inspired me or kept me up at night might do the same for others. I started with the attitude that if even one person enjoyed what I had written, that was fantastic, but even if they didn’t, I had enjoyed writing. I have been amazed by the places blogging has taken me so far.
How long have you been a blogger for?
I used to blog in earnest (and anonymously) around 7-8 years ago. I would have been about 24. I was in a very bad place and used blogging as a sounding board for the pain I felt. In hindsight I realise this did not help me at all as it only served to have me wallowing in my feelings. Last year I decided to start blogging again and my outlook and approach couldn’t have been more different, because I am different. I know that bathing in the joy of life is what keeps me smiling, and I try to do this where possible on my blog. Occasionally I rant, but it is usually to do with social injustice, which for me is something that drives me to campaign for change.
What do you most enjoy about blogging?
The full emersion in the blogging world. When I enter my computer, I am transported to worlds outside of my front room. People read my blog and comment, and I love to hear feedback from my readers and reply to them. I love reading and commenting on other blogs. I am also very active on social media, so a very modern and amazing form of interaction ensues. I have met many bloggers outside our virtual world, and they are just as wonderful as they seem online. It’s good to know that people are mostly very genuine, even vulnerable, and show you all of themselves and their lives. To me, looking from the outside in, that is actually a great privilege.
How has people’s response been to your blog? Do you think your contribution
to fashion and disability has gone some way to changing to overall perception of
fashion and disability?
When I started Around and Upside Down I had no idea what it would become. I knew I wanted to write about what inspired me, but until I started writing things down, I only had a sketchy idea of what those things were. Having a plethora of illnesses, resulting in chronic disability, I need to search hard for the things that make me feel good. My family inspire me most of all, and I write of them often. I love good food, and have recently started focussing more on healthy choices, as I realised my health was worsening because of weight gained from a few years of making the wrong choices.
Then there are the things. For so long I bought into the myth that material things don’t matter – and to an extent they don’t. In my 32 years I have been comfortably off, and I have had nothing but the clothes on my back. Happiness depends on so much else before material things, but I have those covered. I have a man I love and who I will marry this coming August (see the blog and my social media for regular updates on all aspects of planning and general wedding buffoonery). I have a family. I don’t really have my health, but I know where I stand with it (no pun intended). I control my pain as best I can, with help from the Doctors. I can’t work, but I plan on resuming my studies soon, and I like to think I do my bit with promoting some good causes, chief of which I would have to say is inclusive fashion and media. I’m sorry for taking my time to get around to it, but I do like to waffle.
Being a wheelchair user brings up a whole host of problems. It gives me freedom I wouldn’t have without it, but the dichotomy of how a wheelchair user is perceived still baffles me. Many people see me as ‘just a chair’ and talk to the person with me, whether or not I engaged that person in conversation. Others (especially town planners and local councils) forget I exist. Wheelchair users don’t need to get around. They don’t need to use pavements, they don’t want to use public transport. Oh but we do! I do – because sans chair – I’m just the same as you! I like to go out, shop for clothes, shop for makeup. I like to wear beautiful clothes and apply stylish makeup, just like you! If they made a Barbie with a wheelchair (which they did a few years ago, but she is sooo expensive on eBay), I hope she would come just the same as the ‘normal’ Barbie, but with a bit more meat on the bone. (Seriously, anyone with those measurements in human form most certainly would be in a wheelchair due to rickets and severe curvature of the spine). She would have a dozen outfits, in carefully chosen High Street styles that flattered her figure even though she would be sitting all day. Her makeup bag would be bulging, and she would compel you to buy all the latest trends. Her hair would be tousled one day, sleek the next. Maybe bedhead a onesie and a hangover the day after that. Sound like you? She would be just like you – but with her own seat for packed pubs and a parking spot right outside. Seriously, there have to be some perks to disability!
All of this is the frosting on the already scrumptious cake that is my life, and I love it. When I started sharing this, I found out that other people with various disabilities were just the same. Why had I ever thought otherwise? Maybe, just maybe, because we are not represented in the media. You might get a friendly shop assistant in Balamory in a wheelchair, or a clever but dorky cast member in Glee. It’s a start I’ll concur. But where are the sexy wheelchair bound vixens in sitcoms, where are the cheerful disabled children in school dramas, where are the amputee models on the catwalk that are being used for anything but to feature their differences as art?
It’s beginning, it is. Lately I have seen Emily in the newspaper, rocking her own sublime style. A good friend of mine has the most beautiful daughter who just happens to have Downs Syndrome, and she was just featured in the Sainsburies back to school campaign. Another good friend (and a serious girl crush) of mine was featured on the catwalk at New York fashion week. This is all so so great! One thought…why is this news? It’s amazing, it is, but it should be commonplace. Just as all races are represented in the media and the fashion industry, so should people with disabilities. We make up a pretty large percentage of the population to, and we should be represented. Racism is no longer tolerated in society, and rightly so, so why is ableism commonplace?
The response to these ideas has been massive. I have attended events and the London College of Fashion dedicated to eradicating the isms in the fashion industry. I have stood side by side with others who want to see themselves represented in fashion and media, and spoken enthusiastically to those who want to know more. I love to help educate and inform, to ask questions, to challenge ideas. I am very proud to be part of a new wave of people with disabilities who are ready to stand up and be counted.
What are your future goals for your blog?
To improve my reach, so I can get the message out to those who don’t even know that these wonderful changes are afoot. To carry on speaking out for those who maybe feel they can’t speak out for themselves, and to write what moves me. I think if you enjoy what you write, it really shows, and people respond to that.
What fashion items are your must haves?
A swing dress, a stylish wrap or cardigan, and some black gel liner for some vintage winged liner. Red lippy would be a bonus, but always a big smile and a wink.
Do you feel that fashion needs to be made more accessible for people with
Yes yes yes yes yes!
What tips would you give to an aspiring fashion blogger coming from the niche of
Don’t think of yourself as being niche – you represent a large contingent of the population, many of whom will have similar aspirations. Cover what interests you, because there will always be someone else who thinks the same way and will enjoy reading what you post. Shout loud and stand tall. You have every right to be here, and whatever your disability, you are just as good as those who don’t have your particular set of problems. Overcome what you can, and live with and work around what you can’t. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help from those who have been doing it for a while. The blogging world has some real gems who will help you work out any problems and answer most questions.
Do you feel that there are any misconceptions towards fashion and disability?
Yes. Emily has covered many of the issues faced by blind and partially sighted people when it comes to loving fashion. I am usually the only wheelchair user in the audience when I attend fashion shows, and none of the models are in wheelchairs. The same can be said for amputees and people with various other disabilities. Having a disability doesn’t consign you so a life in sweat pants – far from it. After attending talks by the likes of Kelly Knox, a model and actress first and an amputee second, it re-enforces my belief that I can do whatever I set my mind to, disability or no disability. When you’re looking for the hidden sparkle in life, and reaching for a healthy way so express yourself, for me it has to be fashion.
Abelism, do you feel it is present in the fashion industry and if so in what way?
Totally! When my children were younger there was outcry when the beautiful and enthusiastic Cbeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell was shown on children’s television in the daytime. Some small minded parents complained that she should not be featured on children’s television because she would scare the children. Cheerful Cerrie just happened to be an amputee, missing her right hand and forearm. This happened just 5 years ago, and attitudes have not changed much. People with disabilities are still seen as novelties and freaks. The inclusion of someone with a disability in any arena makes headlines. In one way this is fantastic, we are moving in the right direction, but in another it feels rather archaic. What would the reaction be to a headline reading “woman goes to work” or “person of colour goes to school”. Society has come so far with some things, but for people with disabilities we are only just peeping out of the dark ages, trying to find the light. Inclusion of people with disabilities in fashion and media circles is vital for progress. This is where people look to establish what is acceptable, what’s in style, what’s on trend. For me, equality is always in style, and should be worn with a smile and a confident attitude.
Where would you like to see the relationship between the fashion industry and
disability in 5 years time?
Working hand in hand for an accurate portrayal of society as it is, with all those that love fashion being represented and catered for.
Thanks so much for this interview Emily. It’s made me think clearly about many things, and the direction I would like to see my blog and the fashion industry going and growing.
- You can visit my blog here – please do stop by and comment. I love hearing from readers.
- Come follow me on twitter here. I am addicted and constantly tweeting.
- Or my blogs facebook page here.
- I have 100’s of pics on my instagram here.
There are other ways to get in touch with me on my blog. In the meantime thanks so much for reading. Please get in touch if there are any issues you’d like me to cover or questions you might have. I have pretty strong opinions but I do love to listen to those of others, provided they are respectful and kind, which is the way I think everybody deserves to be treated.
Love Vicky xxx