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When I first bumped into the Spashionista’s blog, I thought: “Wow! I am now sure all this can work and will be meaningful for many people”

I was researching about what was going on in the world, in the Fashion Inclusive industry, and Alicia’s blog helped me find the right words to motivate what I was doing. When my first article, on Fashion Inclusion came out on Divercity Magazine in Italy, I wrote to her, on Instagram and with my great surprise she immediately replied!
I then thought I would have loved to have an Ig Live with her and again, she accepted even though, I kept on mispelling Every Body and writing everybody!
When this blog came out, her interview has been one of those I was looking forward to publishing.

Enjoy the read, get inspired by her story and learn about the fabulous designers in Nashville she is surrounded by!

Who is Alicia Searcy?

I’m 59, live in Nashville, Tennessee, and was born with Cerebral Palsy. CP affects my ability to walk and perform tasks that require fine motor skills such as typing and fastening small buttons. As a child and adolescent my mother, who was a model in her youth, was very critical of my body shape and weight. Because of this, I struggled between bouts of anorexia and weight gain for most of my life.
For many years I simply gave up on myself and my appearance.
As a result and because of my disability, many people treated me as if I couldn’t think for myself. They would speak to the people around me, but not directly to me. My desire to change the way people perceived me led me to pay attention to how I was presenting myself in public. I basically gave myself a makeover and it made a world of difference in my interactions with others!

In 2012, I googled “disabled fashion blogger” and there weren’t any listed. So I started Spashionista, one of the first fashion blogs by a person with a disability on the internet, to address the need for disabled representation within the fashion industry. I’m also the co-founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Fashion is for Every Body.

What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion is the language of my life! It’s a way to communicate who you are and what you’re feeling without saying a word. Think about how profound that statement can be – especially if you have a disability that includes being nonverbal.
We’re all saying something about who we are based on what we wear. Being intentional in your clothing choices gives you the freedom to show the world exactly what you want them to know about you at any given time. 

It has taken me years to build my wardrobe. I don’t buy anything I don’t love or can’t be altered to fit my body (because none of us have an “off the rack” body. Not even models!).  

You are the founder of Fashion is for Every Body- how did this all start?

It started in 2015 with conversations I had with co-founder Krystle Ramos, who owned a vintage clothing store in Nashville. She worked hard to make her shop wheelchair accessible, once I pointed out to her it was not. We became great friends and had long conversations about accessibility and inclusion in fashion. Sitting in the audience at Nashville Fashion Week the idea of an inclusive fashion show came out: featuring adult models of all ages, sizes, and physical abilities on the runway together – not segregated – wearing Nashville designers’ clothing made to fit their bodies.

 The concept didn’t become a reality until David Bowie died on January 10th, 2016. That was the catalyst that instilled a sense of urgency in me to act. We had our very first Fashion is for Every Body show in September of that year. We sold out a week in advance and managed to pull it off despite the caterer running off with our money!
It was meant to be a one-off event but people loved it and kept asking “when’s the next one?”.

We became a nonprofit in 2017 and have expanded to include photoshoots, interviews, and an adaptive clothing pattern award as well as the annual runway show. For the past three years, our show has taken place at Studio 615, which is the venue where Nashville Fashion Week had the show that inspired the idea in the first place.

You support local designers: how do you choose them?

I am very proud to support Nashville’s fashion designers and to say that their pieces make up the majority of my wardrobe. We have a richly diverse spectrum of creativity within our local fashion community. I started reaching out to them early on when I started blogging and I’m honored to call many of them good friends. I’ve worn their designs in the front row of Nashville Fashion Week and in my everyday life. The majority of them do sell worldwide.

Can you list them, please?

Laura Citron is by far my favorite designer to wear. Her aesthetic is modern Halston meets Mackie and… suits me perfectly.
Andrew Clancey’s Any Old Iron is part punk, part Liberace. He designed the Cape of Joy, a 15-foot sequined train first worn by me as the finale to Fashion is for Every Body’s 2018 runway show.

It has since been featured in Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” video.
Lily Guilder makes beautiful, unique coats and festival wear.
Ola Mai’s designs are Mod for the 21st century.
Black by Maria Silver is a little 70’s, a little 90’s and 100% cool.
Amanda Valentine is the queen of color-blocking and a three-time participant on Project Runway.  

 I should add that, many of my clothes are made to measure and those that aren’t are tailored by Eric Adler who also designs custom bespoke menswear. Eric created a pair of adaptive trousers for me. His passion and commitment – along with every other Nashville designer I listed – to be inclusive gives me hope for the future of fashion for every body (pun intended).

What is your message to the fashion industry?

It’s time to acknowledge the need to be inclusive and sustainable! Even before COVID-19’s influence on our shopping habits, the call for size inclusion and trending away from fast-fashion got louder every day. Consumers want pieces that validate their worth as people. That extends into the relatively new market that is adaptive clothing.
It exists because people with disabilities want to wear beautiful clothes, too.
Brands that operate on elitism and exclusionary systems are being called out. They’re being boycotted. They’re going bankrupt. It’s a new world, and we all matter in it.
The fashion industry’s future success will undoubtedly hinge on supporting the self-esteem of all of its customers. 

Future plans?

That’s a great question in the middle of a global pandemic LOL! As I write this, we have a record-high rate of COVID-19 infections here in Nashville. This means Fashion is for Every Body’s annual runway show scheduled for September can’t take place this year. When it’s safe for us to interact with each other again we’ll resume our interviews and photoshoots. In the meantime, I’m rebooting my blog, Spashionista, to talk about the important issues we’re going through in fashion, in disability, in society right now. Adaptive fashion has come a long way since 2012, and I’m excited to use my experience and lend my support to bettering this new realm in the fashion world.

Photo Credits:

Laura Citron Frances Suit – Nina Covington

Spashionista at Home During COVID – Searcy Studios

Any Old Iron Cape of Joy – M F Sagi

Alicia Search sitting on a blue and white couch wearing a blue mask and yellow and red flowery dress. She has her legs crossed and wearing sandals. on the wall behind her lots of David Bowies posters and prints.
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