If the fashion industry has an award for heroes, Henrik Silvius should get a nomination.
Muscular dystrophy may confine the 22-year-old Dane to a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop him from diving into the crowded sea of fashion blogging. Spending his days blurring the line between masculine and feminine fashion norms, Silvius is luring hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic readers to his Where Fashion Is Fashion Is blog.
At first blush, Silvius’ opinion on clothing might seem somewhat eccentric. For instance, he’s been known to combine the flare of leopard prints or fluffy furs with otherwise banal black men’s suit or a printed t-shirt. He’s not afraid to sport a pair of thick gold earrings, carry a Prada purse or sport a chunky bright necklace.
“A lot of men are afraid of looking too feminine or not getting the standard of the macho ideal,” Silvius said in an email interview. “Come on, we are living in 2013 and we’re way past the caveman style…in the shallow world of fashion, I’m sure that clothes are the uniform with which we conquer the world.”
Silvius may seem an unlikely candidate to conquer the world given his lot in life. But he’s just one in an admirable cast of people with disabilities to break into fashion. The BBC, for instance, ran a show in 2008 called “Britain’s Top Missing Model” that featured eight disabled women competing to win a fashion shoot in Marie Claire.
As a child, Silvius was not able to hang on tree limbs or kick soccer balls in the yard. Instead, he was observing the world around him.
He’s had a long affair with sketchpads, allowing him to channel those observations into drawings.
The view from his wheelchair caused him to literally see the world from a different perspective than everyone else; he always saw peoples’ clothes and bodies before he saw their faces.
“I don’t know if this is the reason why I started loving fashion,” he said in the interview. But, he is “glad it happened.”
Where Fashion is Fashion Is is a chronicle of carefully selected outfits, landscapes and portraits reflecting his unique palette. Every morning, he puts together hip or chic ensembles reflecting what he finds picturesque that day. The closet includes second-hand sweaters, H&M shirts, vintage shoes, Dior sunglasses, and a collection of Silvius original designs.
He writes text to run alongside his fashion, with words often inspiring readers to follow his lead. His exhortations can be as edgy as saying “boys, grab your balls and wear that Versace bag.” At other times, his writing can give intense insight into a man striving to overcome the hurdles of muscular dystrophy.
“There needs to be a thought and a reason behind every single picture or post,” he said. He usually publishes between two and ten posts a month, and a friend serves as his photographer, snapping portraits of Silvius wearing outfits in a variety of locales, spanning Copenhagen to Paris.In order to read some of the posts, non-Danish speakers will need to employ a translation service, like Google Translate.
Silvius has picked up stylist jobs and he’s documented major events like the Copenhagen Fashion Week. His goal is to become a fashion designer and people attracted to Silvius’ designs are likely going to fashion-centric folks who long to avoid the basic.
For instance, when Silvius grew tired of his white Doc Martens shoes, he “spiced them up” by attaching some homemade white, studded leather fringes to them. In a recent interview with Visibility, a blog about disabled fashion designers, he said “New Balance sneakers are the invention of the devil and people wearing them should cut off their feet. I don’t care how comfortable they might be.”
For now, Silvius says he loves his styling job and is still developing his view on creativity. His future focus will likely remain on men’s fashion because “it is a couple of steps behind women’s fashion — we don’t have the same possibilities women have.”
That’s why he’s itching to “design menswear that has that little something ‘extra’ in the next couple of years.”
Eventually, we may see the Silvius brand hit shelves. For now, he’s doing a lot of drawing, learning to work with different textiles and fits and figuring out how to properly transfer his sketches to the sewing board.