Models of All Abilities Appear in Virtual Runway of Dreams Show at New York Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) is getting more inclusive!

On Monday, The Runway of Dreams Foundation held a virtual fashion show, where over 25 models of varying abilities got the chance to show off the new adaptive clothing and shoe lines of Tommy Hilfiger, Zappos, Target, Kohl's and Stride Rite — all from the comfort of their own homes.

The models included Paralympic gold medalist Brenna Huckaby, activist Grace Strobel, empowerment speaker Brandon Farbstein and author Keah Brown, as well as people from around the world who have wheelchairs, walkers, arm/leg braces or live with progressive diseases.

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which changed NYFW's usual in-person format, Mindy Scheier, the founder and CEO of Runway of Dreams, told PEOPLE (the TV Show!) that they insisted on making the event happen — and that once they did, something beautiful came about.

"We have been able to touch people from around the world that we haven't been able to have on our runways and now we can. So a pandemic certainly wasn't stopping us," Scheier, 49, said during Monday's premiere episode.

The fashion show — which featured appearances from Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen (who lost his left arm in a 1984 car crash) and his musician wife Lauren Monroe — marked the first time that prominent designers and companies appeared on the same runway together, according to a press release.

Hilfiger, who kicked off the show, also made history in the fashion world as he becomes the first time big-name designer to launch an adaptive, easy-to-wear clothing line that is wearable for all ages.

"These people have been disregarded for so long and now they have an opportunity to wear something that is cool and wear something that is either stylish or on-trend or of the moment," Hilfiger, 69, told PEOPLE (the TV Show!). "It changes their whole attitude in life because it gives them a feeling of confidence."

The iconic fashion designer said he felt particularly compelled to create the line after being approached by Scheirer, as he had a personal connection to people with varying abilities.

"It touched my heart because I have children with special needs and I've watched them struggle with buttoning buttons and zippering zippers and actually getting dressed," Hilfiger shared.

Like Hilfiger, Scheier said she also had a close tie to the cause that inspired her to create the runway show.

"People with disabilities are the largest minority that we have on our planet," she said. "I am also the mom of a child who has muscular dystrophy and until Oliver came into my life, I really forgot how profoundly important clothing is to who you are as a person, your self-esteem, your confidence and how you show up to the world."

Those feelings were echoed by newlywed YouTube stars, Shane Burcaw and Hannah Aylward Burcaw, who have documented their interabled relationship on the video platform, and served as the fashion show's emcees.

Speaking to PEOPLE (the TV Show!), Shane admitted that it's always been challenging to find clothes that fit him due to his genetic disorder: spinal muscular atrophy.

"I have a very unique body because of the disease that I live with," he said during Monday's episode. "Finding clothes is always a struggle. I often have to hop in the children's section to find clothes."

As Scheier looks ahead, she said she hopes the event will continue to make strides in the fashion world for people living with varying abilities.

"To know that my son is going to grow up in a world that includes him — that believes that people with disabilities are just as important — to know we have a little bit of history in making that change happen is truly indescribable," she said.

PEOPLE (the TV Show!) is a half-hour daily TV show inspired by the brand's unique combination of the most popular celebrity and inspirational human-interest stories, including entertainment news, exclusive interviews, feature stories, beauty and style, true crime and more. The show airs Monday-Friday in all 12 Meredith markets, including Atlanta, Phoenix, St. Louis, Portland, Nashville, Kansas City, Hartford-New Haven, Greenville-Spartanburg, Las Vegas, Mobile-Pensacola, Flint-Saginaw and Springfield-Holyoke. The show is hosted by Kay Adams and Lawrence K. Jackson with correspondents Jeremy Parsons and Sandra Vergara. You can also stream the show daily at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on People.com, PeopleTV app (OTT) and PEOPLE’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.





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