CHICAGO (CBS) — When you think about fashion shows and models, you think glamour and splash, but do you think inclusion?
Flair 2019, a fashion show hosted by The Chicago Lighthouse at Chicago’s Drake Hotel, has all of those things and more.
Flair is a different kind of fashion show because it makes a difference.
Three of this year’s models work at The Lighthouse and are blind or severely visually impaired.
“Fashion is very much a closed world,” said Lighthouse model Carly Englander. “You have to look a certain way, be this tall, that kind of thing. To widen it out a bit, to have someone who who is not quite like that was really meaningful.”
“It’s very important to showcase beauty that way, the beauty of all, and that’s how the world should be,” said Dr. Janet Szlyk, president and chief executive officer of The Chicago Lighthouse.
What is it like to walk down a runway in a gigantic room full of people, all eyes on you, when you can only rely on hearing and touch?
“I just wasn’t sure about getting up on the runway,” said Lighthouse model Sandy Murillo. “I was kind of anxious. But when I was walking I heard a ton of applause, so that helped.”
“I was walking with someone next to me,” said Lighthouse model Ben Chargot. “She whispered things like, ‘We’ll turn,’ ‘Stop,’ ‘Pose. Let everyone see you.'”
What is it like for models to wear beautiful clothes they can’t see?
“The lady who assisted me described it to me, a dress with floral patterns,” said Murillo.
Murillo said she felt comfortable.
“But I also heard all these people say it looked good on me,” she said.
“A person who is blind of visually impaired still has the same feelings about looking good as someone who is sighted,” Szlyk said.
“It was a nice suit they had me in, $700 or $800 suit,” said Chargot. “I was hoping I could keep it. I could not keep it.”
But Ben, Sandy and Carly all say their real takeaway was a feeling of being equal.
“People are people and look at all the beautiful people together,” said Chargot. “A lot of friendship in that room.”
The Chicago Lighthouse is all about inclusion and options for people with all kinds of disabilities. People with disabilities work in every department, many in leadership positions.
The Lighthouse was founded in 1906 by women who donated clothing to people who were blind.