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  • Jessica Perez for POLYCHROME

Inclusive Fashion for All

A new wave of designers, companies, and organizations passionate for change are addressing the needs of those with impaired accessibility issues.

The beauty of fashion is that it is versatile, innovative, and ever-changing. Each passing year, the fashion industry showcases the transformative power of its products for consumers aesthetically, but what about more tangible changes to their lives? We have reported on pioneers in the field of wearable tech and how techwear is helping to read emotional cues in order to assist with psychological issues and ailments. This time around, let's explore how designers and innovators are looking make fashion that's inclusive and accessible for all.

Fashion that is making a change:

Power fashion design house Tommy Hilfiger is making strides in this area and everyone is stoked. The Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive Collection aims to make the struggles of one in five Americans with disabilities a little less difficult by making dressing a bit more convenient. For those who are frustrated by not only finding clothes appropriate for them, but also getting them on, Tommy Hilfiger has put a modified twist on current trendy styles to alleviate the stresses of an everyday routine. In 2016, after having worked with Runway of Dreams, a nonprofit organization looking to make fashion more accessible for those with disabilities, Tommy Hilfiger created a collection specifically for children. Hilfiger has taken this collection to new lengths this Fall season, featuring modified details such as one-handed zippers, magnetic hook-and-loop fasteners, and seamless adjustable hemlines. Kicking off his ‘Independence’ campaign by showcasing disability rights activists, Hilfiger has added apparel not only for children, but also for men and women.


Tommy Hilfiger is not the only organization looking to make fashion more accessible to all; other collaboratives such as Open Style Lab have also been working diligently towards more inclusivity. Having started out as a public service project at MIT and later a non-profit, this organization has partnered with Parsons School of Design in New York to bring together a collective of individuals to change the way fashion can help those with impaired accessibility issues. Comprised of occupational therapists, engineers, and designers, this organization offers an opportunity to those in the course to work with and aid clients who have diverse disabilities. Volunteers with impairments like cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, amputation, paralysis, and autism work with OSL participants on how to make inclusive, functional, and fashionable clothing for people with disabilities. The resulting efforts are aimed at giving them a chance to have clothing that fits their needs without compromising style.

For Open Style Lab board member Christina Mallon who lost the ability of the motor neurons in her arms, the organization created a coat she could use without needing the use of her arms and hands. For disabled senior citizens at Riverside Rehabilitation this past summer 2018, Open Style Lab created several looks to help the elderly maintain style while accommodating for wheelchairs, easy accessibility, and lifestyle preferences.


As the design world has taken a more critical look to discern how apparel can be more versatile and inclusive, designer Camila Chiriboga, an Open Style Lab collaborator, has taken a special stance to create a fashion collection with special features for those are visually impaired or blind. Questioning how to explain a whole world of color for those who may not have the ability to see, Chiriboga has created tech savvy menswear that has special features to help with identification, interaction, and safety. With multifaceted looks that come equipped with zippers, audio tags that allow a smartphone to describe clothing, and various textures, Chiriboga’s collection leaves her clients happy to finally have a wardrobe of possibilities not less guess-work.

Another addition to the growing list of those addressing these issues is Saudi designer Hadeel Ayoub who is designing solutions for those with vocal disabilities. Hadeel Ayoub is the founder of BrightSign which is looking to take technology and fashion into a new direction and giving a voice to those who cannot speak. One of their key designs is a glove complete with a companion app, the device tracks hand movements to convert sign language to a computerized speech allowing those without a voice to communicate to others better.

With sensors embedded within a transparent underglove and the speech hardware packaged in a wristband, this glove allows for universal communication while being thin enough to be worn inside different style outer gloves. Although the BrightSign glove has yet to hit retail stores, this startup has already raised millions to keep working towards their goal of being able to bring their product to market and help those with communication disabilities.


Looking to contribute in her own way to inclusiveness in fashion, CEO Maura Horton of MagnaReady is changing the way those with limited mobility can dress. After her husband was diagnosed with early stage Parkinson's disease, Maura Horton was inspired to create a collection of garments for adults and children that would positively impact the daily routine of those with limited range of movement and restore some of their freedom. By utilizing a magnetic fastening system, Horton’s adaptive wear has helped many people find a stress-free method of dressing.

Designers and individuals looking to address the needs of people who have impaired accessibility issues have started to open up the conversation of what needs to change in the fashion world. For those looking for the inclusivity that fashion should already have had, these designers are leading the charge to help individuals create their own sense of style in the face of physical adversity.


Do you know of a designer or fashion inclusivity initiative that should have made our list?

Drop us a line and let us know!

Sources: Teen Vogue | WWD | Fashionista| Mashable | Forbes | TheBigIssue | CNBC | Broadly | Metropolis

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