It’s about time fashion embraces differently-abled communities
When we talk about diversity and inclusion the most common topics that come to our minds are race, gender, and size. We’ve seen some significant changes the past few years within the fashion industry in this aspect: more ethnicities, LGBTQ+ people, and plus-size models walking down the catwalk. This is great and it was about time, but what about disabled people? When it comes to fashion, they are one of the most underrepresented minorities.
Disability comes in different aspects and forms. Mental and physical disabilities, as well as medical conditions, contribute to making the getting dressed process challenging for people. Adaptive fashion covers this range of differently-abled communities, adapting features like buttons, zips, fabrics, and much more to help them become more independent when it comes to putting on clothes. While the American market is much more developed and varied in adaptive fashion, the UK is still far behind. The fashion industry as a whole has been neglecting this area for so long, even though is a huge financially lucrative one, representing £249bn of spending power, according to The Guardian. With 1 in 5 potential UK consumers being disabled, it’s a huge untapped market.
The good news is that some major fashion players are taking some steps towards a more inclusive fashion for disabled people. Tommy Hilfiger is one of them. The American preppy label is now on its third adaptive collection. The first one was childrenswear, followed by an adult collection one year later. Their Tommy Adaptive line has been improving over the years thanks to their customers’ feedback. Seated wear, fit for prosthetics, easy closures and comfortable fabrics are some of their solutions, making it possible to find stylish and good-looking clothes – just how adaptive fashion should be. Not only practical but fashionable.
After receiving a letter from Matthew Walzer, a high school student that suffers from cerebral palsy, Nike has developed in partnership with him, trainers that don’t need laces. It was a three-year process until the Nike FlyEase was launched, but in the meantime, Matthew got a prototype and helped the company with insights and feedback. The initial FlyEase model features a wrap-around zipper that opens at the back and provides sufficient support, eliminating the need for laces. Now the collection has expanded and brings different technologies and models of Nike’s signature trainers, not compromising style.
On a more local scale and reach, the Cornish fashion brand Seasalt started investing in adaptive clothing after receiving requests from customers. Their Easy On collection brings their signature styles with some added design twists to make them more inclusive. Magnetic fastenings, large pull loops on zips, soft elasticated waistbands and side splits are some of its characteristics.
There are undoubtedly more cool and inclusive brands out there, these are just some examples. We have a long way to go to make fashion embrace inclusivity and diversity in all its aspects, so let’s keep going and pressuring our favourite brands to become more inclusive – as that’s the only way forward.
By Manuela Rio Tinto