This week’s StyleCrush is Bay area disability rights activist and fashionista Giovana “Gigi” Giscome. She has hit the runway several times this year, including at the pivotal Queer Fashion Week 2016, making a splash in both the Bay Area and national fashion arenas.
An outspoken proponent of the rights of people with disabilities, Giscome has challenged businesses and the behemoth University of California system, demanding accessibility for all. Don’t think for a second she has done so without incredible style, both sartorially and just by being her.
Read more to find out what makes this incredible fashionista and activist tick.
Wear Your Voice: How do you describe your style?
Gigi Giscome: I’m somebody who loves color and matching different prints and fabrics together in one outfit. Honestly, it’s a challenge for me to wear strictly all black because I love color so much. Although I do love wearing my black leather jacket. My leather jacket is definitely a staple for me; wearing it makes me feel sexy and strong.
WYV: Who has influenced your style most?
GG: My style is mostly influenced by my Afro-Latina heritage, being a New York/Cali hybrid and the strong women in my family. My love for color comes from my heritage. My love for mixing prints comes from where I lived and where I traveled to. Lastly my fearlessness comes from the strong women in my family who raised me to be strong and independent.
WYV: What pushes you most to help advocate for others in disability rights justice?
GG: Growing up, I was the only disabled girl in mainstream public school classes. My family and I moved here from Brooklyn because Berkeley is the home of the disability rights movement and known to be a safe haven for people with disabilities. My family raised me to love my disability, so as a kid I was comfortable with my disability. I never thought I was different just because I was in a wheelchair.
Growing up, I saw firsthand how our society treats people with disabilities like we are “different” or “foreign,” which is insane to me. People tend to forget that people with disabilities are human beings also. We have the same wants, needs, values as everybody else. We may look, move, or talk a little different but we are all human. The disability community tends to be isolated from everyone else, and that isn’t fair. That’s why I am moving forward to be in the fashion and beauty industry so that people with disabilities are represented. I look forward to the day when I see people with disabilities in fashion magazines and on billboard ads. That’s my dream.
WYV: How can fashion be a radical political statement?
GG: The great thing that I love about fashion is having the power to reflect one’s personality and mood through personal style. You can wear what you feel without speaking a word, and that draws people’s curiosity. I can show people how I feel about my disability or my femininity through my clothes and makeup.
WYV: What can designers do to accommodate different bodies and make fashion more accessible?
GG: I think that most designers forget that generally all bodies move differently and are not all the same. It would be so nice to have clothing that adapts to people’s abilities that are easy and cute to wear. When I’m getting dressed, I’m thinking about what is the easiest to wear independently throughout the day but still feel cute and confident.
WYV: Who are your brands or designers? What draws you to each of them?
GG: I’m not a brand kind of girl at all *laughs*. I shop a little from everywhere: Forever 21, Zara, Target, random Etsy shops. If it has a distinct color or print, 8 [out of] 10 times I’m buying it.
WYV: Who would you most love to model for or curate a collection with and why? What would you make sure to include?
WYV: I would love to be on the front cover of the September issue for Vogue. That is my ultimate dream — to do a spread photoshoot in my wheelchair, looking unapologetically fierce but free. Also I would love to curate a collection with Nasty Gal displaying badasses with different disabilities.
WYV: Who are your top celebrity style crushes and what do you love about each?
GG: My style crushes are Solange, Lupita Nyong’o, TK and Cipriana Quann. I love that they’re all strong black women with powerful, distinctive styles. Whenever I have a bad day, I creep on their Instagram and feel rejuvenated.
WYV: How do you wear your voice?
GG: By dressing unapologetically and wearing clothes that make me happy and smile.