This year is the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (July 26, 1990) in the U.S. To celebrate, Ascension is taking a quick look at the history and recent developments in adaptive fashion.
Over the past few years, several large companies have invested in developing adaptive fashion lines for people living with disabilities. However, fashion designed for people living with designed for people living with disabilities is not a new concept.
Helen Cookman designed many garments for people with disabilities between 1955 and 1973, sparking the Functional Fashion movement and cofound the Clothing Research and Development Foundation with the late New York Times Style Editor Virginia Pope. Cookman, who was hard of hearing, developed an interest in designing clothing for people with disabilities during a research residency at NYU's Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Most famously, Cookman is known for her design of Levi Strauss's Function Jeans line from 1976 (Cookman had already passed when LS&Co picked up the jeans). Unfortunately, after the passing of both Cookman and Pope, the Functional Fashion movement largely lost steam.
However, the recent renaissance in adaptive fashion has seen designers and corporations take a stitch from the catalogs of Cookman and her associates. For example, Izzy Camilleri, a Canadian couture designer well known for her clothing designs within the film and music industries since the 1980s, began IZ Adaptive, an adaptive fashion line, in 2009. Companies investing in adaptive fashion include Tommy Hilfiger and Target.
The CDC estimates that there are 61 million people living with disabilities in the U.S. alone. According to an American Institute for Research report, this demographic of people represent a collective total disposable income of almost $500 billion. Citing similar research, supporters of adaptive fashion believe the concept makes good business sense in the contemporary era.
But what is adaptive fashion, what does it look like today, and what are the ideas informing its creation? We've ran through a few examples below but if you want the authoritative word on the advancement of adaptive fashion and current design trends, watch Stephanie Thomas' Tedx Talk. Founder of Cur8table.com and fashion journalist, Stephanie has a lot to say about the future of adaptive fashion.
For those with Seated Body Types:
For those with Prosthetics:
Autism Syndrome (Hyperactive Sensory Systems)
The above features are only a small glimpse at what goes into designing Adaptive Fashions. To ensure success, designers and companies consult regularly with physical therapists and people living with disabilities. However, perhaps more important than the design features themselves, are the principles driving the creation of those features.
According to Stephanie Thomas, the guiding principles behind adaptive fashion design are:
There's more to it then manufacturing clothing with discrete elastic bands and low, zippered pockets. In her Ted Talk, Stephanie discusses several misconceptions or stereotypes that the fashion industry must overcome before truly reaching a place where adaptive fashion can gain momentum as a movement within the fashion industry.
For more information about adaptive fashion, visit Runway of Dreams. Runway of Dreams is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting accessibility and inclusion in the fashion industry. The organization also partnered with Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, and Target to kick off the September 2018 New York Fashion Week.
With over 2,000 wheelchair lifts providing round -the-clock accessibility to locations across the globe - including two lifts at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology - Ascension is a proud supporter of equal access in all of its many forms.
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