PETALING JAYA - Most people often picture slim and slender models as the faces behind fashion brands, but a local boutique is breaking through this often-unrealistic type of beauty by featuring individuals with Down syndrome in their latest Raya collection.
With the slogan 'You are your own kind of beautiful', Maqilla Boutique in collaboration with the Down Syndrome Association of Malaysia aims to create awareness on Down syndrome and to share the message that everyone is beautiful in their own way.
"Everyone is beautiful on the inside, and I feel like I'm beautiful," said Paralympic athlete Siti Marina Frohlich who has Down syndrome.
Siti Marina, 37, was one of the models in the campaign and described the experience as exciting.
"It felt good (to model) and I was very happy," she told The Star.
"I was in very comfortable clothes too," said Siti Marina, adding that her favourite outfit was the blue colour Baju Kurung as it is her favourite colour.
Even though it was her first time modelling, Siti Marina said it was not "too difficult".
"It was easy to follow the directions, and I was practising (posing) at home," she said with a laugh.
Maqilla Boutique co-owner Nur Aqilah said she was impressed by the modelling skills of Siti Marina and the "young and energetic" Khoh Hui Qi.
"We let them run the show, and right out of hair and makeup, they were already in character. I was in awe," said Nur Aqilah.
Nur Aqilah, 30, said she and co-owner Wan Irmawati Idayu have loved ones with Down syndrome and wanted to do their part in helping the community.
"We want people to really look at these special kids and to notice the right things, not about how different they look," said Nur Aqilah.
"We want people to see their hidden talents, rather than look at their disabilities.
"They are all happy people who bring so much joy to the environment and people they work with," she said.
Wan Irmawati, 38, said the campaign was inspired by their personal experiences dealing with children of special needs.
"This campaign is important for us because it highlights the fact that beauty has no definition, that beauty can be possessed by anyone, regardless of who they are," she said.
"By including these beautiful women in our ads, we are in fact normalising the idea that they are as much included in our society as anyone else," said Wan Irmawati.
Photographer Muhammad Zamir, 32, said that it was his first time working with special needs individuals.
"It was challenging and fun. Once I got to know them better and bonded with them, it was very easy guide them. They were great," he said.
Muhammad said that he has been eager to break away from the "typical" fashion photography, and capture subjects that are not commonly seen as beautiful.
"I wanted to show the beautiful side of Down syndrome that people don't know," said Muhammad.
"To me, everyone is beautiful. It's how you portray and carry yourself that makes you beautiful," he said.
Maqilla Boutique hopes to "give back" to the Down syndrome community by donating RM10 to the Down Syndrome Association with every purchase from Maqilla's Raya Basic Collection.
"Raya is for everyone. Even though our contribution is not that large, our hope is really to help in any way we can," said Wan Irmawati.
For more information, visit Maqilla Boutique's Facebook page.