Imagine this: You enter your favorite larger retail store and among all the different clothing sections—Women's, Men's Kids, Plus Size, Maternity, Athletic—you notice a new section called simply "Adaptive." In this section are all the same styles as in the other sections, but they're modified for wear by people with disabilities. Although this is not a reality yet, it's the goal of Mindy Scheier, fashion designer, mom, and founder of the nonprofit Runway of Dreams.
"This is what true inclusion looks like," Scheier says. "There are 73 million people with disabilities and 1 in 20 kids has one. That's a huge number of people, and clothing choices should reflect their needs."
Scheier's son Oliver (pictured here with her) has a rare form of muscular dystrophy that makes getting dressed a challenge. After her son's first day of wearing jeans to school, Scheier started researching ways to make the same styles of clothing non-disabled kids wear more friendly for her son and kids like him. After some research and the input of people with disabilities from all over the world, Scheier got a sense of the many ways clothing was challenging. Then, she bought some off-the-rack pieces and set to work using her training as a designer.
"I didn't want my own clothing line," Scheier says. "I wanted to be a partner to fashion industry." Now—when we have more models with disabilities, Lego is introducing a minifigure in a wheelchair, and as a culture we have more awareness and acceptance of disabilities—is the perfect time for the fashion industry to start making adaptive clothing for the millions of people who need it.
Scheier's clothes are brilliant in thier adaptations: Instead of buttons, zippers, and other closures, they fasten with strong magnets approved for use in apparel. There are alternative ways to get out of the clothes, which preserves a person's dignity while they dress or have medical needs met. And all the clothes include adjustable waistlines, sleeves, and cuffs.
"In our focus groups we learned that tailoring clothes to fit disabled bodies was costing most people as much as the clothes themselves. We wanted to address that and that's why the clothes include things like a three-button system at the bottom of the pant leg that allows for self-hemming."
Runway of Dreams has partnered with Tommy Hilfiger, and its new Adaptive line goes on sale today.
These are just a few of the adorable styles available:
In addition to the partnership with Tommy Hilfiger, Runway of Dreams is already in talks with two other major global brands. She's starting with children's clothing, but Scheier's hope is that all major brands eventually will produce adaptive lines for kids and adults.
To achieve her vision of an Adaptive section in all stores, Scheier needs our help to spread the word.
"This takes a village," she says. "The more support we get will add to the groundswell, making it easier for me to convince other brands of how important this project is."
Visit the Runway of Dreams wesbite to learn more, donate, and share your thoughts about what other adaptations you'd like to see in clothing.