Lauren Bell, senior graphic design major at Samford University, is a strong advocate for people with disabilities. This year, she got to chase her dreams of walking in New York Fashion Week.
In September, Bell walked in Fashion Week with Runway of Dreams, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide an inclusive and accessible clothing line.
According to their website, Runway of Dreams “empowers people with disabilities to have confidence and self-expression through fashion and beauty inclusion.”
Runway of Dreams’s mission statement is what Bell has dreamed of.
“I want to study graphic design to bring people with disabilities into fashion marketing and media,” Bell said.
Bell found Runway of Dreams while researching a graphic design project. After finding them on social media, she knew the organization was a fantastic opportunity. She messaged them on social media and shared her story. As a result, they invited her to walk as a model in their Fashion Week Runway Show.
Bell has always followed the various Fashion Weeks from around the world and grew up watching Project Runway with her mom.
“I knew that Fashion Week was an incredible experience to be a part of and I honestly never thought I would be a part of it,” said Bell.
Bell said she does not go a day without remembering her experience from Fashion Week.
“Fashion Week literally changed my life. I have done a lot of work on my identity and seeing myself as more than just my disability. I hope to continue to be an advocate for people with disabilities,” said Bell.
Bell said she wants to show inclusion in a way the world has never seen before and that the Lord has answered her prayers.
“My faith is super important to me and throughout the whole experience, I felt really seen by the Lord,” said Bell.
Bell’s close friend Holly Schumpert accompanied her to New York for Fashion Week. Schumpert said she is proud of her friend.
“The instant sense of joy and boldness Lauren exudes is something that I noticed about her the first day I met her. She doesn’t let her disability divide her from anyone or any experience,” said Schumpert.
Schumpert has nothing but admiration, love and support for her best friend.
“She is one to push past obstacles and use her circumstances to encourage and empower others. You can tell she’s a role model at first glance, as well as a person who loves and supports others wholeheartedly,” said Schumpert.
Bell is continuing to pursue her dream with Gamut Management.
According to their website, “Gamut is here to lead you towards doing better, more inclusive business. We will help you listen to, engage, work with, and develop new products for people with disabilities.”
Bell is excited about what is on the horizon.
“The movement has started, and I don’t think it will end anytime soon, it has just begun,” Bell said. “It [Runway of Dreams] is just the beginning for disability representation in fashion.”