Paralympians win the runway at Tokyo Fashion Week

Blind Paralympic swimmer Rina Akiyama and male model showcase Tenbo's Braille-inspired designs.

Blind Paralympic swimmer Rina Akiyama and male model showcase Tenbo's Braille-inspired designs. Photo: Koki Nagahama

Designers get applauded for using disabled models in their campaigns, but how about catering to this market in a real and practical way?

Takafumi Tsuruta's label Tenbo sets out to do just that. At Tokyo Fashion Week, he sent Paralympic athletes and other people with disabilities – some with prosthetic limbs – down the runway.

Tsurata designed a wedding dress for a wheelchair-bound bride – as he did two seasons ago with his previous label, Ha Ha – as well as coats that close with magnetic buttons, making them easy for handicapped people to put on and remove.

Snowboarder Mika Abe takes to the runway at Tenbo.

Snowboarder Mika Abe takes to the runway at Tenbo. Photo: Koki Nagahama

Among his models were Paralympic track athlete Sayaka Murakami, snowboarder Mika Abe and blind gold medal swimmer Rina Akiyama, who took to the catwalk in prints featuring cartoon skulls and a multicoloured dot pattern inspired by Braille.

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Tsurata is dedicated to inclusivity and diversity, empowering men and women who are usually invisible in the world of fashion. He is on a mission to create clothes "for all people of the world." This manifests itself in 'genderless' collections that are bright, loose, easy-to-wear and in line with his optimism.   

As a designer, he acknowledges the true difficulty of getting dressed in a wheelchair – where something as simple as a button can render something unwearable – and pays equal attention to fashion, form and function. Let's hope other labels can learn by his example!