JULIE McElroy is no stranger to a challenge, and her latest mission will take her to new levels – thanks to the captured photo featured in the newspaper earlier this year. Julie was inundated with messages of a new search to nurture for the future.
This triggered Julie to set-up her quest to produce a dress designed by one lucky disabled student from her former school and in partnership with Amanda Buchanan a Fashion and Textiles Lecturer from Cardonald College to fit Julie’s winning design.
When asked George Godfrey, art teacher of Ashcraig School, the former school where Julie once attended what inspired him to partner up with Julie, he says ‘Our students have been involved with many partnerships over the years and working with Julie has given our students new experiences in real life situations. Seeing what difficulties Julie has overcome, the challenges that she has succeeded in will inspire confidence and determination in the students.
He goes onto says “What is truly inspirational about Julie is her commitment, drive, ambition and fortitude. Had Julie been able bodied without impairment she would still be inspirational. You then add the difficulties attributed to her mobility, her communication and the attitude and discrimination of others and you then can really appreciate just how significant an impact she has made on others”.
Describing her reasons for being so active in promoting disability rights and encouraging people with disabilities to aim for success, she says: “I want to experience a totally new existence, challenges that are different from what I experience in everyday life. I know that I have the commitment and passion to succeed and I want to show people that regardless of their disability they can achieve anything.”
She said: “I want to take this fashion concept to another level in Scotland. Some disabled people take their passion for fashion and the way they look seriously. I want disabled people to feel confident, have the professional approach and confidence about what they wear and thus change the perception for the public that they can be good looking! Also it will help nurture the next generation of disabled individuals.”
This is furthered echoed by George stating “More role models, promotion and positive media coverage. There are also many technologies available that could support learning even in the design industries.
The project phrase of designing the dress is now completed by the students and George commented on the fact that “Throughout the process students have become more confident, more self aware of issues relating to disability. It has been empowering for them to be on their own and be committed to the new challenges that they have experienced”.
Now that the winning design is completed, Julie says “After much deliberation with Amanda about which dress would really suits me it came down to one after looking at ten designs all put together by students. However, the winning design caught my eyes in the early stages of the design when I was up visiting the school in April 2012. There was something wholly unique about this design, I fell in love with it!!
The winner of the chosen design is Rae’esah Ismail who was born with Cerebral Palsy and currently attends Ashcraig School. When asked what sparked her eye-catching design, Rae’esah says “Images of inspirational landscapes symbolic images for courage and that clearly matched Julie’s personality”. She goes on to say “My mum is fashion conscious and we use to enjoy designing clothes at home for fun”.
It is clear to see that Rae’esah is thrilled to have her design transformed as she said “I’m really excited and proud that my design is going to be seen on someone who is as strong as Julie”.
Winning this fashion design competition has given Rae’esah confidence to take her artistic flare further beyond school as she said “I would like to go to college and do more art and design work. I also love graffiti art and would love to do more of that type of art”.
Meanwhile, the production of the dress has begun in earnest and expected to be ready by November. Amanda tells how she met Julie and now turning Julie’s dress into reality “I had the pleasure of meeting Julie some years ago at a course we both attended. She struck me as a resilient and determined woman with the ability to achieve whatever she put her mind to”.
When asked what inspired her to take on the task of making a dress for Julie “It is a privilege to be involved in such a brilliant project mixing the imagination of children and promoting the best idea through creative work. Knowing Julie I feel confident everyone will be rewarded by participating in this collaborative effort”.
Julie views this as the ideal platform to put disabled fashion out into the spotlight, and is urging everyone to get behind her idea. When asked how she would encourage people to take part who may be self-conscious of their image due to their disability, she said: “Although I have accepted my disability and myself for who I am, I know that this is far from easy to do. However, I would encourage others to do the same. You realise anyone with a disability isn’t any different from everybody else.
We are all equal and all human and have the right to do the same things as normal peers but they will have to be done differently.”