When Lesley Hampton's designer clothes hit the runway at Vancouver Fashion Week in March, people knew to expect stunning garments and beautifully crafted pieces. They just might not have expected a lesson in endurance at the same time.
Hampton, who is based in Toronto and whose background is First Nations, has always placed importance on diversity, both in the clothing she creates and the types of bodies she chooses to use for her runway shows. For her Spring-Summer 2017 collection, that meant turning to Adrianne Haslet, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing whose left leg had to be amputated below the knee.
"I sent her an email. I was just like, 'I love your story. I'm so inspired. Would you be interested in coming to walk for my show?' And she replied right away, and was like, 'That's incredible, absolutely,'" Hampton told CBC's Our Vancouver.
She also chose to start her show with Haslet's 2014 TEDx talk, "What people say when they don't know what to say," explaining to the blog Olio by Marilyn that she wanted to introduce the audience to Haslet, then have her open the show.
Today it hit me. I cried for the accomplishments of my new lifelong friend @lesley_hampton I remember lying in my hospital bed, down the rabbit hole of internet searches. Bawling my eyes out that I, being third in the world in ballroom at the time, now had no leg. Thanks to a terrorist. I would never amount to anything. I saw no amputee women being held as role models, dancers, let alone sexy. I decided right then and there that I would dance again. That I would advocate and demonstrate. I would take a stand for those who cannot stand. I won my first ballroom competition back. I've overturned laws for amputees to have access to Limbs, against congress and Medicare. Many many amputee women have stepped up and strutted their abilities, too. Now, thanks to #lesley_hampton those of us with different, not any less sexy bodies have an example on this catwalk to show other women that there is room for ALL of us. No matter your body. Thank you @bebodyaware and to you Lesley, to the moon and back. Literally cause I'm so happy to be flashing mine in your dress! #amputeemodel #bostonstrong #adriannestrong vfwfw17 #herestochangingtheworld #sheerdress
Rather than shying away from the spotlight after her injury, Haslet, a ballroom dancer, has been taking every opportunity to speak out about what she's learned since the bombing.
As she told Self in 2016, "It was an extraordinarily humble experience to have your body change so drastically and then try and appreciate it. Let alone love it. Let alone show it. Let alone wear shorts or be on camera talking about it."
Lesley Hampton, centre, with models after her FW2017 show at Vancouver Fashion Week.
But Haslet wasn't the only model who veered from the typical body type on stage. Hampton, who has partnered with the Be Body Aware project to celebrate diversity in fashion always looks to find new people to cast in her shows.
“My models range from industry size, plus size, men, women, transgender, amputee models and even some with alopecia," she told the Toronto Sun in 2016. "I like to have my models represent the diversity of society. Whoever I think can show off the clothes the best, then I choose them."
Haslet certainly seemed to appreciate the opportunity to take part in Hampton's show, telling A Plus, "I was walking in celebration of Lesley's work.
"It is my life's work to show other amputees that they can do anything. We are not broken, we are simply missing pieces. Once we have that piece, our options are limitless, as you see."