WAB Class of 2010 graduate Jourdie Godley recently Zoomed in to Grade 9 students at WAB from New York to share his story about living with a disability and his work in the fashion industry to promote greater inclusion of people with disabilities.
Jourdie is a US-based Australian fashion consultant, model, digital content creator and creative director behind the fashion site East & West. Born at 27 weeks with cerebral palsy, Jourdie has needed the support of a wheelchair all his life but that has not stopped him from doing anything.
“At WAB I was so fortunate to be in a really inclusive environment. I was the only person with a disability in my grade. I hadn’t been the only one in the school with a disability prior but at that time I was. A lot of my classmates had told me how I had broken their perceptions of disabilities just by being in a class with them every day, going on China Studies trips, doing all those things,” he told Grade 9 students.
After Jourdie graduated from university, he realized that the biggest obstacles in his career path were not his abilities, but people’s negative perceptions towards people with disabilities. After landing a job in cultural diplomacy at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and having a chance to attend Fashion Week, Jourdie found his calling: to initiate social change by teaching the fashion industry how to be more inclusive of people with disabilities and to embrace them as valued consumers and stakeholders. He also sought to promote greater exposure of people with disabilities in the fashion industry’s media and marketing.
“When I started my career, I was one of the only people in the entire Asian region with a disability who had an active presence in the industry. I learned that I needed to have a continuous presence and that was the only way that I would break those stereotypes.”
He created the website East & West to have a platform to initiate dialogue and collaboration with industry leaders. By the time he left Jakarta to continue his career in the US, Jourdie had worked with all major fashion houses and media in Jakarta and was a fixture at fashion weeks across the region.
“When I saw what I could do in a country where having a disability is a taboo (Jakarta) I was excited to see what I could do when I moved to America in 2017.”
But that path was harder than expected. After an incident in which a luxury fashion store denied him entry because of his wheelchair, Jourdie saw an opportunity to start a dialogue with the brand representatives. Rather than expose the situation to media, Jourdie decided to design a course that teaches corporate and retail staff how to engage with customers with disabilities both in-store and through media, which in turn empowered the brands to include the disabled community.
Fast forward to 2022, Jourdie has had a lot of success: he’s been featured in the New York Times, Vogue, CNN and has worked with many luxury brands to help them be more inclusive through marketing, social media and campaigns and by reviewing their diversity and inclusion strategies. He has also heard from many people around the world who have been inspired by his work to forge a path for themselves in hard-to-break-into-industries and even those who once harbored prejudices against people with disabilities and have now learned to be more accepting. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“I understand that everything I do and everything I achieve through my work is much bigger than myself. It affects and impacts my whole community.”
As a WAB alumni who is truly living our mission of Connecting, Inspiring, Challenging and making a Difference, we are looking forward to continue following Jourdie’s journey as he continues his inclusion work around the world.