FIRST TIME AT FASHION WEEK / MADISON LAWSON

Photo by Tramaine George

Madison Lawson, 20, has always dreamed of attending fashion week, and this season she finally had the chance. She is battling two rare forms of muscular dystrophy, spinal muscle atrophy and collagen 6, conditions that would have left her unable to attend for a future season. Atlas was lucky enough to catch up with her and her best friend and traveling companion, Jessie, on their trip to New York Fashion Week, FW17.

Atlas: Hi Madi, Hi Jess–– thank you so much for taking the time! I wanted to first start off by saying that your friendship is so beautiful, and I’m so happy you could make it up to New York.
Madi + Jess: Yay us too!

A: So, how did you two meet and become friends?

J: A good friend of mine was Madi’s Summer Welcome Leader at our university. She reached out to me and asked if I would be able to work for Madi for two weeks while her normal personal care attendants were studying for exams. I thought two weeks wasn’t a big deal especially after she told me how amazing Madi was. After the two weeks went by, I just never left.
 

Photo by Gregory Vogel

A: Madi, your lifelong dream has been to go to Fashion Week. Now that you’ve been–– what do you think?
M: It was everything I thought it would be and more. Despite the obstacles we faced, like American Airlines losing my chair in Chicago and then breaking it, the city was enough to keep me going. I finally got my legs back on Monday and we leave Wednesday morning. I was upset because I wasn’t able to do as much as I wanted to because my body was holding me back.

A: Why was coming to fashion week so important to you?
M: I wanted to make sure I was able to experience it before it would be too hard for me. It wasn’t easy by any means, but it was possible, and that’s all Jess and I needed. I needed to see the place I have obsessed over for my entire life.

A: What has excited you the most during this trip to New York?
M: I got to meet my idol, Amanda Steele!
J: The fact that no one believed we were tourists and thought we were lying when we said we went to the University of Missouri.

A: What is on your schedule for this week? 
M + J: Our first show was Laurence and Chico and it was absolutely amazing. Then we saw Georgine, Jcrew, Verdad, Beaufille presented by Made, Mara Hoffman, Dennis Basso and Pyer Moss. We also met with Rebecca Minkoff and Amanda Steele and toured Cosmo, Seventeen and Glamour.

A: Who are some of your favorite designers?
M: Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Rebecca Minkoff, Calvin Klein
J: Prada, Jeremy Scott, Rebecca Minkoff, Louis Vuitton, Moschino

A: What is your favorite thing about the world of fashion?
M: It’s one of the only platforms where individuality and diversity are celebrated. Growing up I always wanted to fit in, and I realized one day that I never really would. So now, I just express myself with fashion and people might notice me for my chair, but they remember me for my style.

A: Can you tell us a little bit about your conditions?
M: I have two gene mutations that are both rare forms of muscular dystrophy. One causes my muscles all throughout the body to weaken over time and the other attacks my muscles, joints and lungs. I currently sit at about a 12 percent lung capacity and that number is decreasing rather quickly.

A: How can others become more educated? Is there any way to contribute to research?
M: The best education on the diseases can be found through the Muscular Dystrophy Association which funds research for treatments and cures. Donations and volunteers are always needed and help thousands upon thousands of families.

A: Now that you’ve seen NYFW; what’s your next goal?
M: The biggest goal after experiencing a taste of life in the city is to push for further accessibility in the industry. It’s nearly impossible to even find a place to get a slice of New York style pizza without a step or two standing in the way of the establishment. Just breaking down accessibility barriers is my main goal so that so many more capable and talented people have access to a world that’s nearly impossible to get around in.

A: Do you have anything you’d like to leave our readers with?
M: This trip has taught me that nothing is impossible. Every challenge has been hard and I’ve wanted to break down a few times, but they say if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. Also I’ve seen so much love pouring out from complete strangers– it’s just been so surreal. Before I came here, I always heard about how mean New Yorkers were but I’ve literally seen a man park his motorcycle and get off of it to help me when I got my chair was stuck in the snow. And I’ve seen people go above and beyond what seems to be humanly possible to make my dreams come true for me, and that is something I will carry with me forever. Beautiful things can come from the dark.

Thank you so much, Madi + Jess, for taking the time to chat with us. Find Madi on Instagram @wheelchairbarbie and Jessie at @jessicakaay, and learn more about Muscular Dystrophy at MDA.org.


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