Tommy Hilfiger leads the way toward inclusivity for people with disabilities
Whether we prefer style, comfort, or practicality, our wardrobe is a reflection of ourselves. We often take this for granted and overlook the fact that some people with disabilities do not always enjoy the same freedom over how they present themselves to the world. Despite the fact that more than one billion people around the world live with some form of disability, the fashion industry has failed to see them as potential consumers. Mainstream fashion has made significant efforts in trying to accommodate for different sizes, genders, and ages, but it is still not inclusive enough for people with disabilities.
In Spring 2016, Tommy Hilfiger took a step forward and released the first adaptive clothing line from a major fashion label. Adaptive clothing is specifically designed for people with disabilities, the elderly, and anyone else who may struggle to get dressed. Their first adaptive clothing line was a children’s collection in collaboration with the non-profit organization Runway of Dreams Foundation, which promotes inclusion in the fashion industry for people with disabilities. The collection included features such as magnetic buttons, adjustable hems, velcro closures, and pull-on loops inside the waistbands. Shortly after, Tommy Hilfiger decided to expand its adaptive line in the Fall 2017 collection with styles for men and women.
This year, Tommy Hilfiger has taken it a step further and released its Spring 2018 Adaptive Collection with further improvements and new styles. Velcro closures are better quality, zippers have been replaced with bungee cord closures, and added double plackets at the waistline make it easier to put on pants for those in wheelchairs. The new collection is backed by a powerful campaign that features differently abled personalities, including American Paralympic track athlete Jeremy Campbell, beauty and lifestyle blogger Mama Cax, dancer Chelsie Hill, and chef Jeremiah Josey.
The release of the Tommy Hilfiger adaptive clothing line represents a step toward inclusivity in mainstream fashion, but most importantly it promotes empowerment for people with disabilities. Mindy Scheier, the founder of Runway of Dreams, shared the vision of her non-profit organization in her TED Talk, “How adaptive clothing empowers people with disabilities.” Scheier’s son Oliver has a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy, which makes it hard for him to wear jeans like other children his age. Scheier used her fashion design expertise to design a pair of adaptive jeans her son could wear and still feel as stylish as any of his friends. In the process, Scheier realized that there were millions of people around the world who were experiencing the same struggle, so she established the Runway of Dreams Foundation as a platform to develop new adaptive clothing initiatives and empower people with disabilities.
Mindy Scheier pointed out that what we wear matters. Adaptive clothing design has mainly aimed for practicality and has often lacked the flare and style of mainstream fashion. This should not be the case. Fashion should be inclusive and should allow everyone to confidently express themselves. Fashion can influence our mood, health, and self-esteem. How we dress determines not only how we present ourselves to the world, but also how we perceive ourselves within that world.