Sinéad Burke makes her debut on the second ever cover of sartorial bible, Business of Fashion, casually outshining Kim Kardashian who covered the first.
The Irish native makes a powerful statement in the publication's "Age of Influence" issue in a deconstructed Burberry trench coat and Adidas Stan Smiths as she demands that fashion does a better job of including everyone.
Burke, who has Achondroplasia and is an advocate for greater inclusivity in every aspect of the world, is a well-known figure not just in Ireland but on the global stage.
Her 2017 TED Talk "Why Design Should Include Everyone" is one of the most-watched installments of the series. Burke has also been invited to the White House, spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and made four speaking appearances at Business of Fashion's VOICES.
Along the way, she has personally talked one-on-one with everyone from Oprah Winfrey and RuPaul to Joe Biden and Christine Lagarde.
Fashion Must Include Everyone: Thank you Tim Walker for translating my ambition and vision into this extraordinary image, to @imranamed and @BoF for shaping and amplifying this movement, to @timblanks for his visit to Dublin and his excellent, curious questions and to @Burberry for their collaboration in the reassembly of the system of fashion. I am honoured to be on the cover of #BoF's Age of Influence print issue. You can purchase the print issue and read Tim's full interview on www.businessoffashion.com. ?: Tim Walker ?: @nikhilmansata ?: @lucyjbridge ??♀️: @shonju . [Image description: Staring down the lens of the camera, I am holding a scissors and wearing a @Burberry trench coat that has been deconstructed and lacerated into pieces to fit. I'm also wearing laced Adidas Stan Smiths runners, blue eyeshadow and slicked back retro hair. The coverline reads In The Age of Influence: @TheSineadBurke.] #FashionMustIncludeEveryone
Wielding a scissors as she chops the luxe $2,000 designer coat to suit her liking, Burke tells the magazine that in an era where becoming an "influencer" is easier than ever, there is an even greater need for inclusivity.
She tells editor Tim Blanks, “I used to think influencer culture would be a new vehicle for minority voices to be heard. But this is just the beginning.”
“Lots of different questions need to be asked of the fashion industry,” she insists. “Movements often have individuals at the helm but they need to be supported by allies. For true success, there has to be a community, supported by people in power who can further causes that they aren’t perhaps affected by.”
The 27-year-old also spoke of her experiences forced to shop in the children's wear department.
"My money is the same as yours, why am I limited to shopping for items that don’t fit properly and don’t help me command respect and own a space,” she asks.
With her profile as an articulate advocate on the rise, it wasn't long before she caught the attention of Alice Delahunt, former global director of digital marketing at Burberry, whom she collaborated with on custom outfits for her many public speaking engagements.
Now, she is urging other brands to follow suit and notice the community of over one billion people across the world who identify as disabled.
It’s called fashion, the @BoF. Look it up. ?: Tim Walker ?: @nikhilmansata ?: @lucyjbridge ??♀️: @shonju .[Image description: Wearing an oversized @vetements_official shirt, an enormous floppy hat and carrying large tote bags from Chanel and Dior whilst clutching pearls and wearing a facial expression that says ‘deal with it’. Promise I’m a kind person.]
“One of the challenges of fashion is that it is notoriously hierarchical, and it profits from exclusivity," Burke says.
"In order for the disabled market to be relevant customers and to have their voices validated, there has to be power sharing. There are very few people within the fashion industry in positions of power who have lived experience or an empathy within this arena. If they design for difference without a tangible understanding, the product becomes patronising. Or it comes about that we think only in terms of function.”
A keen fashion enthusiast, Burke combines her love for design and beauty with her academic studies. She is currently undertaking a PhD in Trinity College, Dublin on human rights education that explores the voice of the child in school.
You can read her incredible interview in its entirety here.
Fashion must include everyone: Sinéad Burke is a three-and-a-half-foot activist and makes a powerful case for why it no longer makes sense for fashion brands to only cater to the bell curve of society. Indeed, there are more than 1.2 billion disabled people in the world, 15% of the population. But their voices haven't been amplified yet, especially when it comes to fashion. A report calculated that the disposable income of disabled people is $1 trillion globally. Then, factor in their friends and family members, who control another $6.9 trillion. Burke says: "My money and my existence is as valid as yours. And yet, I'm not accommodated for." But beyond clothing options being severely limited, she also faces countless obstacles when shopping. For example, she finds it impossible to reach rails on the shop floor or see shelves for accessories. Burke argues that disabled people need to be brought to the table when it comes to shaping decisions around product and store design. "One of the challenges of fashion is that it is notoriously hierarchical and it profits from exclusivity. In order for the disabled market to be relevant customers and to have their voices validated, there has to be power sharing. There are very few people within the fashion industry in positions of power who have lived experience or an empathy within this area," she says. Learn more about her empowering story, in an exclusive interview with BoF's Tim Blanks, now on businessoffashion.com Photographer: Tim Walker Stylist: @nikhilmansata Makeup Artist: @lucyjbridge Hair Stylist: @shonju