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Fashion Designer, Disability Advocate Sharon Gary-Dill Talks Inclusion

By Kay Campfield | December 2022

If you are anywhere near the Atlanta fashion scene, you most likely have heard the name Sharon Gary-Dill, and if you aren’t, you have most likely witnessed her wearable art in motion at fashion showcases in and around the southeast, as well as New York Fashion Week.

As one of the first designers in Atlanta to include models with special needs across the disability spectrum in her fashion showcases, Gary-Dill helps to remind people that it’s our differences that is the powerhouse of our beauty.

“There is beauty to be found in everyone and it has been my mission since starting designing professionally, to highlight through fashion, the beauty in imperfection that we all possess,” says Gary-Dill. “As a result, showcasing models with disabilities along with typical models in my fashion shows, was important to help further awareness about the community,” she said.

A native of Atlanta, GA, Gary-Dill has a 25-year professional background in the hospitality industry as a premiere concierge in top hotels, catering to the needs of wealthy patrons, corporate executives and celebrities. Her interest in fashion began when she was very young, with her mother and a black and white dress ensemble that radiated when her mother wore it.

“My interest in fashion design started when I started collecting my mother’s scraps from the beautiful clothes she made for herself and sewing dresses for my dolls,” she recalled.

An Evening of Fashion and Elegance (AEOFAE), is an annual event created and produced by Gary-Dill, that has been held for nearly 10 years, and brings more than a night of fashion. It also highlights beauty beyond the spectrum, by including models of all sizes, ethnicities and abilities. Gary-Dill credits a fateful encounter with Sierra Stanley, a young woman with intellectual and physical disabilities, of inspiring her to share with the world exactly what she saw--:beauty beyond limitations.

“Sierra is the daughter of a good friend of mine, who introduced me to the various challenges people in the disability community face regularly,” shared Gary-Dill. “Despite the challenges, both Sierra and her mom were always decked out in some very cool fashions and when I decided to have my first fashion show to include people with disabilities, I asked my friend Norma if she and her daughter would model some of my designs, and they both have been part of each of my fashion events ever since,“ she continued. “Now, Sierra and some of her other friends with disabilities are signature models of my Fashion by D’Shacourt Studio’s Unlimited Models group and delight audiences whenever I’m participating in or producing a fashion show,” she said

Gary-Dill’s highly anticipated annual event, An Evening of fashion and Elegance was side-lined for two years due to the pandemic. However, the fashion event featuring fashions by some Atlanta’s leading designers, is back on track for December 2022.

“We were just two days from having An Evening of Fashion and Elegance event before the pandemic hit and the Atlanta City Hall, our preferred venue, closed its doors,” shared Gary- “However, I am so excited we have the chance to hold it at City Hall again this year and showcase some of the most talented and award-winning designers in Atlanta, as well the runway talent of some of Atlanta’s models…with and without disabilities” she continued. “I'm also so very thankful for the team of designers, hair stylists, make-up artists, business owners, etc., who have dedicated their time and talents to making this event a success over the years. In addition, this year we will be honoring a few community leaders and business owners, who have been extremely supportive of my work with An Evening of fashion and Elegance over the years,” said Gary-Dill.

As a result of some serious health issues she’s been managing, Gary-Dill says she will be passing the torch of producing and executing her event to one of her close associates, who has assisted in the event’s production over the years and Terri Stevens of Sunni B’s Boutique, and founder/CEO of Face2Face Talent and Modeling Agency, will be taking over management of the annual event..

“Yes, I will be passing on the mantle of my mission and I am so thankful and appreciative that Terri has offered to continue the hard work of planning and executing An Evening of Fashion and Elegance moving forward,” shared Gary-Dill. “I know she will take it to the next level and is committed to furthering my mission of including people with disabilities,” she said. 

Doing what she loved was how it all started for Sharon Gary-Dill, who was honored with a Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award from President Biden for her work in the area of fashion inclusion, in 2021. Her love for fashion is just as strong as her love for the disability community and she will continue to lend her hand and her voice in areas about which she feels passionate.

“I may be slowing down and stepping back a bit, but I’m definitely not stopping,” shared Gary- Dill. “I will still be advocating and working to impact positive change in areas that are important to me, like the inclusion of people with disabilities in the fashion industry, and if my legacy is that I helped to bring awareness and opportunity to models with disabilities who were part of my events, then I’m very thankful,” she said.