"At this point, people might use a disabled girl for a gimmick. They might exploit it. I don't think the industry uses disability in a positive way right now. But I hope our show will change that," he said. "The girls that we have on this show have all the qualities that a fledging model should have. The disabled girls don't have a problem with their disability. It's the industry that has the problem accepting them."
It's possible a similar series could make it to American screens. Ken Mok, executive producer of "America's Next Top Model," has cast partially blind and mentally disabled contestants before, and he's open to the idea of a competition among all-disabled models.
"If it allows people to see disabled people in a different light than they normally would, I fully applaud that," he said. "That's something Tyra [Banks] and I have always tried to do."
"Missing Top Model's" six-episode run begins tonight, and at the moment, there are no plans to commission a second season. Phang hopes six hours will be enough to show the industry disabled models are employable -- perhaps more so than the girls on the runway now.
"It's easier to accommodate the problems of our girls than the problems of a spoiled teenage model making vast amounts of money with no value for it," he said. "If you don't want to show someone with a missing arm, you just put her in a different position."
But consider this: Months after countries like Spain and Britain instituted rules banning too-thin models from their runways, the skinny, heroin-chic aesthetic still prevails. Sea change doesn't come fast in fashion, regardless of whether its well-meaning and politically correct.
"Fashion is a very perverse, very limited kind of world that has its own sort of ungovernable aesthetic. Historically, it's not a very accommodating place," said Simon Doonan, creative director of Barney's and author of "Eccentric Glamour." "That's why when people try to inject it with some healthy, normal ideas, it doesn't work. There's no reason people can't challenge that aesthetic at any given time, but fashion tends to evolve on its own terms."