Last week on Monday 14th May, I was invited by a good friend to attend the 3rd Annual Fashion Show With Participation Of Paralympians and People With Special Needs in Argyroupli, Athens. It was the first time I had heard of this event and was only too happy to attend.
I was in for a memorable experience!
Organised by Sylvia Antonarou, founder of Δεν Υπάρχουν Άνθρωποι Με Ειδικές Ανάγκες Μόνο Άνθρωποι (trans: There Are No Special Needs People, There Are Only People) she says it is not just about fashion per se but has more to do with the inclusion and acceptance of special needs people in daily activities. Activities you and I take for granted. Her goal in organizing this event, apart from providing a great time for everyone, is to make certain dreams, like appearing on the catwalk, come true for people who had up to now been excluded.
A model herself for over 20 years, (she was crowned Miss Hellas 1988) Sylvia knows first hand what it is like to be bed- and wheelchair-ridden for a period of time in her life following an accident. So the idea of a fashion show to include special needs persons brewed for a long time before it became a reality, but once her dream manifested it was received with a tsunami of love and support.
With over 40 participating models, many of whom are Greek Paralympian athletes such as Paulos Mamalos (Powerlifting), Alexandra Stamatopoulou (Swimming), Kelly Loufaki (Fencing), Christos Tampaxis (Swimming), Giannis Kostakis (Swimming), Gerasimos Lignos (Swimming), Bill Dounis (Fencing), Voula Katsouli (Javelin), Dimitra Paschali (Tae kwon do) the event was indeed more than a fashion show. It was one of the most moving and humbling experiences of my life. I had attended a few events at the Paralympic Games here in Greece in 2004, which were truly awe-inspiring, but to see them up-close participating at this event brought home the fact that regardless of their superhuman performances at the Games, they are still excluded and stigmatised in society. A fact that needs to change and the only way to do that is through events such as these that remind us, shake us and wake us up.
Other participants included Piyi Devetzi (Olympian Athlete), Tatjana Dimitra (dancer), professional models Irina Kouzel, Frida Theologou, Areti Giannia, Sophia Alexandropoulou, Elena Moskiou and Jenny Oikonomou Rizou. Designers included Olga Karaververis, Mary Karatsioli (Sessile) and Maik Nikolatos.
Η δύναμη της ψυχής σου σηκώνει το ανάστημα σου και σε κάνει να περπατάς γερά στα πόδια σου, όχι τα άκρα σου.
Trans: It’s not your limbs that raise you up and help you stand firmly on your feet, but your strength of spirit, says Sylvia.
I took my camera along of course, not knowing whether I would be able to get any decent shots as I would be in the general audience. Happily, however, I found a good enough spot from where I was able to capture some moments that I hope convey the mood and emotions I felt as I looked onto this wonderful event, an event that conveyed the message that we are all equal, each with our own special gifts and where love is the golden thread bringing us all together to celebrate the joy of life that includes everyone!
I’m looking forward to the 4th Annual Fashion Show for Special Needs People which is scheduled to take place next year, May 2019 at the Michalis Mouroutsou Stadium in Daphne!