Let’s talk…Fasioneyesta: Bridging the Gap Between Fashion and Sight Loss with Emily Davison

Emily Davison is a fan of writing, fashion, beauty, culture, history, disability awareness. She is an English Literature Student, Writer, Astronomer, columnist for the Huffington Post Uk , reporter on RNIB’s Insight Radio and the Founder of fashioneyesta.com. She has been severely vision impaired since birth.

Fashioneyesta is an online Fashion and Lifestyle blog for people with sight loss aiming to bridge the gap between fashion and disability and seeks to change people’s perceptions towards disability.

Meet Emily Davison.

What inspired you to create Fashioneyesta and how did you get started? 

Starting Fashioneyesta all came about for a number of reasons. For one, my mother worked in the cosmetics industry made me interested in personal appearance and looking one’s best. Another reason, a few friends of mine who had sight loss and asked for fashion and beauty advice then suggested the idea of me starting a blog. But, the driving force behind Fashioneyesta was after I received a comment from someone from the general public, which was that I ‘didn’t look blind.’ I started to wonder what this person actually meant. When I dug deeper and started to receive more comments like this I realised a crucial thing about sight loss, that people assume people with sight loss are unfashionable. After that I decided to create a blog to serve as two things, a place of fashion and beauty advice for people like me, as well as a place to change negative stereotypes towards sight loss and other disabilities.

I began my blog, deciding on a name, a design and what sort of content I was going to write. I tried out a few blogs and realised I hugely enjoyed writing about fashion, beauty and disability. I began to make YouTube videos, I started to create a social network and the rest is history!

How has your own personal journey influenced your work and life choices?  

My disability and the struggles it has challenged me to have hugely influenced my writing and my outlook on society. I never want to be completely moulded by my disability and be defined merely as ‘the blind girl’ or ‘the disabled person’ but as ‘Emily’ or ‘Fashioneyesta.’ However that isn’t to say that my disability hasn’t had an impact on my ethos on life, identity and the world.

My disability has made me think outside the metaphorical box, it has made me consider diversity and the way people are different. The smallest things play into my mind now and when I make a video I consider how disability is diverse for everyone and that not all disabilities are one and the same.dsc01042

Growing up with Septo Optic Dysplasia has meant that I had a rather tough ordeal at school facing misconceptions and ridicule. It also meant that people were not as understanding towards my sight loss as they perhaps could have been. My condition was incredibly rare at the time and still is to a huge extent and so people were not aware of my needs. In some ways my disability was invisible and that meant a huge struggle to being provided with the things I would need, like accessible technology and to have my peers educated about disability.

Now at the age of 21 I am determined that no child should ever feel as lacking in confidence and as isolated as I felt as a child. My ambition is to educate children about disability and to help children with disabilities to accept themselves for their differences. This goal has spurred me on to study for a BA Honours Degree in English Literature and this year I will be taking up a Masters in Children’s Literature to help me learn what I need to know about childhood and the way children think and interact with books. In the future I hope to write books of my own full of adventure, humour, questions that ask us to think about who we are as people, and disabled characters that are identifiable to the young minds that may read of their escapades.

How would you describe your personal style, and what are the three fashion accessories you couldn’t be without? 

My personal style changes slightly from day to day. I would say as a whole I am very feminine in the way I dress but I have a firm love of the bohemian style. I think one of the reasons I have a fondness for it is because it incorporates and embraces elements from around the world from Europe, Africa, Asia and America. I love to embrace different cultures and ideas and I believe my clothes should translate that. Clothes can be an extension of our psyche and our thoughts. I choose to represent my love of nature, diversity, creativity and my love of different ideas through what I wear. Whether that’s a fox print scarf, a pendant depicting a seashell or a brooch with a certain quote on it. My clothes reflect who I am and what I stand for as person.

The first fashion accessory I couldn’t live without is a scarf, I think patterned, coloured scarves add so much dimension and anchoring to an outfit. I have many scarves, animal prints, leaf prints, and paisley prints;  pashminas; silk scarves; woolen scarves; decorative scarves; and more. They are a staple to my outfits and can transform the most dull outfit into something special.

The next fashion accessory is an embroidered shrug. I have a turquoise one that I adore, it is embroidered with sequins fashioned into butterfly wings. I can wear it day or night with jeans and a t-shirt or with a black dress. It’s a very tactile, sensory themed garment which is why I love it and it’s perfect for those days when I’m feeling rather uninspired with the fashion scene and can’t put an outfit together.

The final fashion accessory must have for me is my Michael Kors Jetset tote in red. It’s my essential bag as a blogger, university goer and general traveler. It holds all of my items I need and has a padded space for my laptop.

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What actions do you feel the fashion world needs to take in order to make fashion more accessible to those with disabilities? 

There are plenty of things that the fashion industry needs to do when considering disabled people.

The first and foremost is that more models with disabilities need to be represented In fashion brand campaigns and catwalks. I would love to see disabled models on a catwalk or new season clothing range advert, not just as a ‘feature’ on disabled models but as a fundamental part of the casting to represent the disabled community.

I also think that online clothing stores and websites need to pay closer attention to making their technology accessible. I would like to see more shopping apps being developed to enable people with sight loss to access clothing by scanning a barcode on a clothing item.

I believe it’s very important that more shops are aware of disabled customers when considering layout in customer service. Having a brightly lit, open plan space with large changing rooms, and staff who are aware of disabled customers, would hugely help more people with disabilities to engage in the fashion industry.

I would also encourage fashion brands, companies and designers to have more disabled people in the workplace. Having disability representation in the work environment of the fashion industry would also be a hugely positive step to cultivating a healthier society, with better ideas of disability.

How are attitudes to vision impairment and other disabilities beginning to change?   

Over the past few years we are beginning to see a huge development in the way perceptions towards disabilities are beginning to change. For one, thanks to Scope’s #EndTheAwkward campaign, we are beginning to see people from the general public adopt a more relaxed vibe towards disability.

For me personally, I feel as if I helped to start off a chain on the social media scene. After my blog began three years ago I have started to see a lot more disabled bloggers and YouTubers online. Three years ago I couldn’t imagine people accepting the notion of a visually impaired fashion and beauty blogger. However, it appears I was mistaken as three years into my blog I have a huge following and support network from people with and without sight, disabled and non-disabled.

I have even been told that I inspired certain bloggers to start their own blogging journey, which I am overjoyed about. Because disabled people are having a presence on social media people are starting to engage with disabled people more and take an interest in the things we have to say.

Of course there is a huge way to go for disability to become fully accepted into society but if people carry on getting their opinions out into the world it will happen sooner than we think.

What are the main challenges you still face regularly?11666064_726172724157727_4088336943294071590_n 

One of the main challenges I usually come across is people’s misconceptions towards disability. People often assume things about my slight loss and about my capabilities. I often get comments like ‘do you need your guide dog?’ or ‘are you able to work?’. It’s society’s misunderstanding towards disability that poses my biggest challenge to overcome. But, all one can do is smile, remain calm and educate.

What are your key pieces of advice to anyone wishing to start blogging or campaigning?  

  • Focus on the things that interest, inspire and motivate you. Don’t work on a topic you have no interest in, as this will translate in your writing and campaigning.
  • Only write when you feel inspired – don’t force it.
  • Remain consistent. The one thing about being a blogger is that you have to remain consistent with your writing and content. Keep your readers in the loop and try and keep to a schedule as best you can.
  • Be a diplomat, with blogging and campaigning, especially where disability is concerned it is very important to remain as polite and inoffensive as possible. Try and consider all minority groups and consider everyone in your writing. If you are unsure about something you write invite people to contribute their opinions so that your readers can educate you and fellow readers.
  • Be individual. Don’t steal other people’s ideas, and if you do get an idea for a blog from another person be sure to credit them.
  • Keep going. Don’t lose heart if you don’t get the immediate reception you want. It takes time and patience.

dsc00712Tell us about your love of astronomy? How can it be made more accessible for those with a vision impairment? 

Astronomy has been something I have enjoyed for many, many years ever since I saw my first Planetarium show at the age of 8. I was fascinated with the scale of our Universe, the discovery of new planets, and theoretical ideas of traveling through space like time travel and teleportation and the objects of the sky like stars, galaxies and nebulas.

I was the first person with a visual impairment to receive a GCSE in astronomy from the Greenwich Royal Observatory. A year later I took a course in Traveling Through Space and Time and later next year I plan to take a course in an Introduction to Astrophysics.

I personally think that Astronomy is one of the fundamental subjects we should learn about, after all it explains a lot about the world and how we live. A charity called the Living Paintings Trust produced a tactile audio guide of the Universe, for blind and partially sighted teens, which I helped to produce. It’s a great starting point for anyone interested in astronomy with sight loss. However, I do believe that more courses in astronomy should be developed for visually impaired people. More tactile models of the Universe should be made to help visually impaired people get a sense of the scale of the planets, the solar system and objects in our galaxy. I also believe that more astronomy apps and websites should be made more accessible to people with sight loss.

What is your main message about vision impairment in today’s world?  11743004_731525233622476_4765914957360293394_n

Visual impairment doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t ‘see’ anything both in a physical and spiritual level. Not everyone who is sight impaired is fully blind or has to use glasses. Equally, visual impairment may mean that you lack sight but you don’t lack in ideas, vision or ambition. The world can be perceived on so many levels through the way we smell the wet grass on a rainy morning, or the way we hear the sound of a car rushing by. The senses are a huge part of our empirical understanding and there isn’t merely the one sense of sight. Sight loss doesn’t equate to ignorance, nor does it equate to non-creativity. Sight loss challenges a person to use their other senses to perceive the world around them. People with sight loss are still sentient human beings with ideas, dreams and emotions and their sight merely means that they experience things in a variety of ways. If you are sight impaired, or you ever come across someone who is sight impaired, embrace it don’t disgrace it.

Finally, what are your top five tips for self-love?

  1. Don’t measure yourself up to other people or by other people’s standards. You are the best version of yourself and you are completely unique.
  2. Think about the things you can do and do have and not about the things that you don’t have or can’t do.
  3. Do something everyday that makes you happy.
  4. Don’t waste time thinking about the one negative comment you received but the many positive comments you get from people who know, love and respect you.
  5. Eat cake (or something tasty of your choice) and stop worrying about carbs. You only live once!

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