Milestone push to change stereotypes will see models with access needs included in New Zealand Fashion Week

Designers are going for a different look at this year's New Zealand Fashion Week - not just in the clothes they're making, but in the models who'll wear them.

This year there's a deliberate effort to include people with access needs, with wheelchairs, crutches and those less physically fit to appear on stage.

There's Abigail Knight, who is learning fast how to walk down the runway.

"As it's called the catwalk, I was trying to go somewhere like a leopard because of my jacket," she said.

Abigail Knight
Abigail Knight Photo credit: Newshub.

It's a milestone that 20-year-old university student Grace Stratton pushed for, to help change stereotypes. 

"It's like the next generation of young people who are raised using wheelchairs or with access needs, they won't have to feel like they're isolated or not represented because these girls have been here," she said.

There are more than 400 models at the casting call and more and more designers are asking for a diverse selection that includes models who have access needs - which means a different look behind-the-scenes too.  

"It is even things like how easy it is for the girls to move around, what considerations there would need to be to quick change," Stratton said.

NZFW Owner Dame Pieter Stewart said it would be considered show by show.

"We've thought about it and we'll just take it show by show and see who is part of the show and make sure we are organised for that".

Now these young models have had a taste of a new experience, there will be no stopping them coming back and bringing their friends with them.