British high street's first disabled model is coming to a shop window near you

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Debenhams to feature images of wheelchair user in Oxford Street branch

A woman who uses a wheelchair is to become the first disabled model on the British high street when she is featured in a department store's window display.

Shannon Murray, a model and actress, recently finished a photo shoot for Debenhams which will be displayed in the retailer's flagship Oxford Street store in the next week, The Independent has learned.

The announcement will be welcome news to campaigners who have long argued that the fashion industry and high street retailers too readily forgo variety in favour of pinning their clothes on skinny models who bear little resemblance to the average British woman.

A spokesperson for Debenhams refused to confirm any details yesterday, but sources within the fashion industry said Murray's photographs were taken last week and would feature clothing from the chain's relaunched Principles range.

"The shoot has taken place and the photos are absolutely fabulous," said one source. "I really believe this is a genuine step towards having a much greater variety of faces fronting campaigns on the high street."

The campaign is designed in conjunction with the latest series of Channel 4's How to Look Good Naked, the award-winning fashion show hosted by Gok Wan which encourages women of all shapes and sizes to strip off and love their bodies. Wan's latest series, which began airing last month, is celebrating disabled women and later episodes will follow Murray's journey.

The Debenhams spokesperson was willing to confirm that the chain had been working with producers of How to Look Good Naked and had recently been out filming with them.

In the comparatively small world of disabled modelling Murray, 32, is regarded as a pioneer. She was confined to a wheelchair at the age of 14 after she broke her neck during a family holiday to Lanzarote. But she remained determined to make it as a model.

In 1994 she won the first modelling competition for disabled women. It was organised by Louise Dyson, an equally unconventional fashionista who runs VisABLEModels, one of the few agencies that specialises in finding work for disabled models. She has since become one of VisABLE's most recognisable talents with a string of modelling and television shows under her belt as well as a law degree.

VisABLE yesterday said neither it nor Murray was permitted to talk about the upcoming Debenhams campaign. But on her blog the 32-year-old model revealed how nervous she had become at the prospect of fronting a major high street brand. "I've been modelling for over 14 years but this was different," she wrote on the day of the shoot.

"It is a first and as I was getting ready in hair and make-up, the potential of this shoot suddenly struck me – another small step towards inclusion and representation. I hope the images challenge a few misconceptions about disability; it's been a long time coming."

Unlike other high street stores, Debenhams is showing an increasing willingness to inject some variety into the people modelling its clothes, particularly its new Principles range, which it bought the rights to when the firm went into administration last year.

Last week the clothing chain announced that it would trial size-16 mannequins in some of its stores. The majority of women in Britain are size 14 or 16 but almost all store mannequins are size 10 or below. Debenhams itself sells 42 per cent of its clothes at sizes 14 and 16. Models on the catwalk, meanwhile, constitute an even smaller demographic and are usually between sizes 6 and zero.

Disability campaigners yesterday welcomed the new approach but warned that stores should continue to vary their mannequins and avoid one-off publicity gimmicks.

"As long as the campaign is more than just a brief moment of tokenism then I think it should be welcomed," said Clair Lewis, from the Direct Action Network, which has picketed high street stores that refuse to install access for disabled people. "Britain is a varied placed filled with women of different sizes and ethnic backgrounds. The models and high street windows should reflect that variety but all too often they don't."

Disability on television

Kelly Marie Stewart

Currently on maternity leave, Stewart has made waves as the first permanent member of Hollyoaks to have a disability. She, and her character Hayley, suffer from Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Cherylee Houston

Coronation Street was the first British soap to regularly feature a disabled character with deaf actress Ali Briggs. Now it has Houston who, in April, will play a fiery love interest called Izzy.

Cerrie Burnell

Her arrival as a CBeebies presenter provoked a row when parents complained her appearance might scare children. She was born with part of an arm missing. She dismissed them as "small-minded".

Peter White

The BBC's disability affairs correspondent was the first totally blind person to produce reports for television news. He first broadcast for the BBC in 1971 and is the presenter of two Radio 4 shows.

The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim footballer acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

    £300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

    KS1 Teacher

    £95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

    HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

    £32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster