Inclusivity is so important, and something we value highly here at Playtime. It's a term that seeks to unite all of us as humans and make sure that everyone feels represented. The gender neutral trend has and continues to increase in popularity, with incredible labels like Tom & Boy, Pourquoi Princesse, and Élémentaire among the brands leading the way towards the genderless future of fashion. An evolution of the gender neutral trend that we're seeing is the need for more adaptive fashion to serve the needs and wants of differently abled consumers. Everyone deserves to wear clothing the feels fashionable, comfortable, and conscious! Let's dive into what exactly this term means, how some brands have already started incorporating adaptive fashion into their collections, and how it can be implemented into your future designs.
Explore the next fashion revolution and learn about adaptive fashion!
Adaptive fashion is the idea of designing garments with differently abled people in mind. Some examples are pants, shirts, dresses or skirts that are designed with closures on the side that use magnets instead of buttons, shoes that allow the wearer to step right into them instead of having to force them on or tie them, pants that are cut higher in the back to be more comfortable for wheelchair users, and sensory-friendly clothing. An organization that is working to make adaptive fashion more commonplace and advocate for the differently abled is Runway of Dreams.
Founded in 2014 by designer and mother Mindy Sheier, Runway for Dreams strives to make adaptive fashion mainstream so that everyone has access to fashion that inspires and excites them. With runway shows, clubs at colleges, and partnerships with brands and retailers, Runway for Dreams is working hard for adaptive clothing to become part of the international conversation in the fashion industry. They have identified three major problems in fashion today for differently abled people: closures like zippers and buttons are difficult to navigate, clothing is not adjustable to different body shapes, and a need for alternative ways to put on clothes.
There are several small brands that have sprung up out of necessity for adaptive fashion, for example the brand Slick Chicks that designs underwear with closures on the sides and Braille Code Brands, a company that designs socks and patches with braille that can help vision impaired people easily and independently dress themselves. Some larger brands have also taken an interest in adaptive fashion, with the brand Tommy Hilfiger designing clothing for all since 2017. On their site, customers are able to shop by solution to quickly find clothes that suit their needs, whether they need easy closures, clothes for prosthetics, or that are comfortable for wheelchair users. By including their adaptive collections on the main site, Tommy Hilfiger is normalizing this product category and helping promote its importance. One of our lovely brands, the footwear label Veja, also has a large selection of velcro shoes that slip on and are easier for differently abled people to secure than shoes made with laces. With a wide range of color combinations, their velcro shoes are accessible and allow for personal style to go hand in hand with function. There are also companies that specifically cater to the differently abled, like the orthopedic design studio U-exist. Created in 2014 to enable everyone to express themselves, U-exist combines aesthetics and technique to offer customization services for prostheses and orthoses.
As we all know, one size doesn't really fit all. One part of adaptive fashion that makes it difficult to incorporate into collections is that different disabilities require different solutions. One way to make clothes more accessible is by using magnets or velcro instead of buttons or zippers for closures. Closures at the front, back, and shoulder make them simpler to put on, as well as adjustable hems and leg openings to account for leg braces and prosthetics. Magnetic zippers that make it possible for individuals to zip them with one hand and loops inside waistbands of pants to help them be pulled up are other solutions as well. As Studio Abi suggested, the best way to design is observation.
This worked well for a former Parsons Fashion School designer, Lucy Jones, who designed a collection for people in wheelchairs. She had to think about how different our bodies are when seated, that there needs to be less fabric at the knee for the pants to lay flat, that thigh muscles and fat spread out more when seated, so extra fabric would be needed there to make it more comfortable. Creating garments without tags and from super-soft materials are also great, yet simple, ways to make fashion more adaptive. Another simple way to incorporate this trend is representation. It all goes back to inclusion and the opportunity for everyone to be able relate to models in their market.
As brands and buyers in the kid's market, adaptive fashion is so important to incorporate into collections and stores. Our new way of creating needs to be full of consideration for inclusivity from the start of the design process to the finished product. We learn our place in the world and how it relates to those around us as children, and by making fashion that is more accessible for differently abled people we can help them feel more included. All children deserve clothes that they can play, explore, and express themselves in!