Madeline Stuart is one of those rare people that when you meet you instantly like, her Mum Rosanne is the same.
We meet in Covent Gardens, London towards the end of London Fashion Week. Both are understandably tired after a packed schedule. Rosanne is hungry and Madeline wants a Coke, so we head to a pub so they can relax a bit.
Madeline happily sips her Coke while waiting for the food to arrive, content to scroll through her Instagram and watch videos on her Mum’s phone, while Rosanne and I chat.
It’s been a long week for both of them.
They flew into London for Madeline to walk in 4 shows for 8 different designers as part of London Fashion Week. One of those was for Swedish School of Textiles through Fashion Scout. It’s the first video Madeline shows me of her walking on the catwalk. “Fashion Scout were very professional, they were great with Maddy and she loved walking for me. I really thought it was an amazing platform” Says Rosanne as we talk about their whirlwind week of shows.
Madeline is in high demand and it’s not hard to see why. Watch any show that Madeline walks in and you will see she is a natural, she comes alive on the catwalk. Madeline is a forced to be reckoned with, not only is she taking the fashion world by storm but she’s breaking down barriers and helping to make the industry far more inclusive. Madeline has Downs Syndrome. She has been described as the worlds first professional model with Downs Syndrome.
“Just because she has limited speech she doesn’t understand. She does. Because she has got limited speech to express herself, doesn’t mean she’s silly, because she’s not. She knows exactly what she’s doing, she’s very capable. People need to understand she will work just as hard as anyone with or without a disability. and she does.”
For Madeline it’s all about the catwalk. “and the reaction from the audience” Rosanne is often asked who does her hair and makeup. “They think I do it, they think because she has Down Syndrome she doesn’t get treated like everyone else. But she does. She’s treated exactly the same.”
She has loved fashion since she was young. At the age of 17, she went to a fashion show in her home city of Brisbane in Australia. Rosanne explains ” We have a big exhibition in Brisbane every year, at the exhibition, they have a cotton display which has a cotton fashion show, showing all the clothes made from cotton, and at the cotton show she just fell in love with the fashion catwalk and she just asked me can I be a model!”
And from there Madeline’s dream began to become true. “I organised a photo shoot for her and when we get them done we posted them on her public figure page, which is her Facebook and they got 7.2 million views in 3 days.
“It went completely viral I’ve never seen anything like it. Since then she’s modelled all over the world from Russia to China and Dubai.”
The past few years for both Madeline and her Mum have been a whirlwind. She’s walked 6 seasons in NYC, 2 in London and 2 in Paris. She has also gone viral a further 6 times, the last being in January, a clip of her in Sweden was seen by 37 million people worldwide.
“It’s all about love and showing everyone we are all equal!” Rosanne says when begin to talk about the fashion industry and how it’s slowly changing to become more open and inclusive, Madeline is one of the leading and brightest lights in helping to bring that change about.
“Every day we get at least 30-40 messages on social media, emails, saying thank you for what you are doing in our industry, thank you for what you’re changing with diversity and inclusivity. We just get so many messages. Things have really changed in the industry in the last three and a half years. I have seen such a change since Madeline started. It’s opened up so many peoples eyes as to what is possible. It’s made people realise that it’s been such a positive reaction that they know now they want to see it.”
“They didn’t understand before, they thought it was taboo so people just didn’t want to see it so they didn’t show it. It made people uncomfortable but it doesn’t make people uncomfortable anymore.
Not only is Madeline breaking down barriers in the industry she’s also launched her own clothing collection “21 Reasons Why” which has just launched its third season at New York Fashion Week.
“Maddie has her own collection it’s a ready to wear one, so as you see it on the catwalk is what you’d buy.”
“People kept asking where she got her clothes from, they all loved what her style was, so instead of promoting all the other companies we thought it was time she promoted her own. We started looking at what she liked and discussing it together and then we’d go out shopping for materials and things like that and it just evolved.”
For three and half years Madeline and her Mum have lived in a fashion bubble and it’s been a whirlwind where they’ve both learned lots about the fashion and modelling world. “The first season was such a blur. Before this I was building surveyor, I’m actually a Carpenter by trade, so the fashion industry is so far from what I was used to. It just happened and it’s just evolved and now I do understand it as I lived it for three and a half years.”
Talk turns to downtime what do they both like to do? For Madeline. she likes to talk to her friends, watch stuff on Youtube and just chill. It’s a chance for her just to zone out. For Rosanne? “Try and catch up with my emails. It’s an amazing life but it’s all go and can get confusing. But I wouldn’t change it for the world, Madeline absolutely loves it.”
Next up for Madeline? A few days off. A chance to visit Scotland and for Madeline to indulge in one of her favourite activities, Tenpin Bowling. A subject she is only too happy to tell me about scrolling through photos of her bowling in many different countries. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for Madeline to go bowling in any country she visits if they have the time.
Then it’s back to Australia and back to work for Madeline. “She’s just about to do a big campaign for Carnival Cruise Line. For P&O she’s their new Ambassador. We get back to Australia the first week of October and that starts the first week of November. But we will have a few weeks off before that starts.”
October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, you can find out more here.
You can follow Madeline’s journey on Instagram at @madelinesmodelling_
Let us know if you love Madeline and her groundbreaking journey as much as we do at @CelebMix!