Lauren Wasser | Vogue x Saks

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There’s no shortage of models on the street of New York during Fashion Week, but Lauren Wasser isn’t your average runway star. The 30-year-old beauty has walked for buzzy shows like Chromat and been photographed by the likes of Boo George and David LaChapelle, but her most important role is that of activist. Wasser lost her right leg in 2012 after being nearly killed by toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a condition that impacts hundreds of women each year, and later had her left leg amputated in 2017 due to complications from gangrene. But Wasser has taken a personal tragedy and used it to inform and educate. Whether she’s speaking to teenagers or working with lawmakers to make the companies who manufacture feminine hygiene products transparent about their practices, Wasser has made TSS prevention her mission.

And though her work in women’s health takes up the bulk of her time, modeling is in Wasser’s blood. The daughter of ’80s superstar model Pamela Cook, she was posing in the pages of Italian Vogue alongside her mother as a baby. Wasser was also a star athlete who dreamt of playing for the WNBA. And though she was blindsided when she became ill, she’s emerged stronger from her setbacks.

This New York Fashion Week offered Wasser the opportunity to make a return to the business she grew up in—not to simply do shows, but to serve as an instrument of change. In between the castings, openings, and parties, Wasser met with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to discuss a bill to make it mandatory for brands to list the ingredients in their tampons. In a political climate where legislation designed to protect women is harder and harder to push into law, Wasser is using the platform fashion has provided her to raise awareness.

Naturally, she does it in style. After hiding herself beneath layers of shapeless clothing post-surgery, Wasser felt ready to embrace fashion this week. A lover of the high-low mix, who pairs her Givenchy and Helmut Lang with thrift pieces or sports jerseys, Wasser invited cameras along to document each moment of her comeback week. This exclusive film captures her journey as she steps into the next phase of her career.

Model: Lauren Wasser