Madeline Stuart is taking the fashion world by storm, breaking down stereotypes and stigmas surrounding the concept of a “typical” model. Noted as the first supermodel with Down Syndrome, Stuart has modeled all around the world including New York Fashion Week, China, Dubai, and soon to be Denver. Having walked on the runway multiple times, Stuart has recently started her own fashion line titled 21 Reasons Why. She describes it as “a comfortable ready wear line that can be worn during the day or night by the chic modern woman.” She will be presenting her line on Thursday, March 30. In addition, she will be walking for local designer, Gino Velardi on Saturday, April 1.

Denver Fashion Weekend (DFW) has always been committed to diversity. With three nights of local and national fashion, event goers can be sure to expect all types of models on the runway. Stuart stands as a source of inspiration for the Denver and national fashion scene alike — so we sat down with the designer to discuss her career, DFW, and her new collection.

Stuart on the Runway

303 Magazine: Madeline, your career has skyrocketed over the past few months. Can you tell our readers briefly about your journey and how you overcame stigmas within the fashion industry?

Madeline Stuart: My career has grown at a rapid rate over the last 22 months, starting with my photo going viral on Facebook in April 2015. My mother started a public figure page and posted pictures of me before and after a healthy lifestyle fitness kick I started 13 months earlier and 40 pounds heavier. After my photo was seen by more than 6.8 million viewers within a few days I started getting approached by people to advertise their products and do interviews, within two months I was asked to model at NYFW in September 2015 and then my career went into overdrive.

Since then I have modeled in many countries including Uganda, Russia, Dubai, China, Australia and the USA (NYFW four consecutive seasons). I have traveled to Sweden, London, Alaska and Canada to do charity work, and the Ukraine, Lebanon and South Africa to do TV Interviews. I think the only way to overcome a stigma is to prove it is incorrect — if people have the opinion that a person with a disability cannot achieve but are never shown otherwise they will always think that way. I have tried to change people beliefs on DS and disability by working hard and giving people a different perspective, to help them see everyone is beautiful and should be treated equally.

303: DFW has always been known to showcase diversity in the fashion industry, but what made you personally decide to attend Denver Fashion Weekend?

MS: I was told about Denver Fashion week by colleague in the industry and she reached out on my behalf to see if Denver would like to showcase my designs. I am always interested and supportive of any organization that promotes and is passionate about diversity and inclusion.

303: What advice would you give aspiring models who do not fit the “standard” image of the fashion industry?

MS: Remember to believe in yourself and even if you are not what the modeling industry says is beautiful you still are, we all are, we are all individuals and beautiful in our own ways.

Image by Oleg Nagel – The Finale at Madeline Stuarts Show

303: What made you want to create the label 21 Reasons Why?

MS: 21 Reasons Why started as everyone kept loving the style of clothes I wore and kept asking where to get them. It seemed natural and exciting for me to start my own clothing line to express myself and my love for fashion. The number 21 in the name of brand comes from two factors, the 21st chromosome that represents Down Syndrome and the fact everyone looks forward to turning 21 and it being a happy exciting time of your life. The second part of the name, Reasons Why, is all the reasons I believe we can be better people, more inclusive, more loving, kinder to ourselves and others.

303: So if we were to go to your personal closet, what might we find?

MS: Well my closet is very full as I am given a lot of clothes but you will find a lot of what is represented by 21 Reasons Why as well as formal gowns and lots of bright edgy clothes that represent my personality. I really do love my fashion and my many, many shoes.

Get your tickets to Denver Fashion Weekend here.

Images by Oleg Nagel