It appears that fashion brands are starting to sit up and take notice of disabled people. Many brands are realising that in 2018 they should really be catering for people of all abilities, creating inclusive designs and using disabled models in their ad campaigns to better reflect our society.
Here are just some of the inclusive innovations going on in the world of fashion this year…
Words by Colette Carr
Emma McLelland is the designer behind Kintsugi Clothing, a 10-piece capsule collection that has been designed with inclusivity in mind. While still in the early stages of production, Emma hopes to offer disabled and non-disabled consumers a thoughtful brand that is easy to wear, useful and fashionable for everyone.
We spoke to Emma to find out more about the items she has designed for the capsule collection.
“We have a two-piece jumpsuit that has curved zips on the trousers – all our trousers have these curved zips down both sides because it makes it easier to zip down that front panel and makes them slightly easier to get into. It is hopefully going to be great for anyone who has been on a night out wearing a jumpsuit and needed a wee! The sleeves are ruffled as well, so if you use a self-propel wheelchair you have the arm movement you need.
“Then we have a magnet wrap shirt that has hidden magnets and a small strip of Velcro, so you could probably put it on with one hand. We have some jersey material trousers, they are stretchy enough so they are super easy to put on but they are also flattering. These flare out from the thigh so there is room for a prosthesis.
“There is a wrap skirt that has a form of support belt inbuilt so if you have an ileostomy bag for example, it has a little bit of a pouch in there that you can tuck the bottom into for a little bit of support.
“We also have an A-line skirt that features the Kintsugi pattern on it, a gold crackle that is a very fashion forward piece. It has really deep pockets that you should be able to pop a catheter bag in and there is an opening in the pocket where you can pull the tube out and you can have it under the skirt but it’s in your pocket so there is no need to have anything wrapped around your leg or anything like that. We are hoping that will be quite useful.”
Online fashion outlet ASOS quietly included Tommy Hilfiger amputee model Mama Cax in their active wear range campaign without fanfare saying, “the campaign speaks for itself”.
While the move garnered brilliant online success and praise, ASOS’ quiet appreciation and refusal to
comment on it too much for the sake of equality also helped drive the conversation.
The motion and still adverts embedded Cax
doing yoga both with and without her silver prosthetic leg amongst other sports enthusiasts, capturing not only her incredible balance and ability well, but also the
seamless integration into fashion ads disabled models can have.
On the clothing site’s Meet the Talent page for the campaign, Cax discussed why yoga is perfect for her and her favourite sportswear picks.
Rosie on Fire
Rosie on Fire is a luxury kimonos, dresses, kaftans and accessories brand, run by Angeline Francis Khoo, who instead of inheriting her family’s Laura Ashley empire, created her own with the purpose of creating opportunities for autistic employees.
I read you have three siblings on the autistic spectrum, was that the motivation behind Rosie on Fire?
It was one of the motivations for Fire and it’s why I advocate for inclusion of autistic people in businesses. My little brother and I are best friends and our lives have diverged because he didn’t have access to the same
opportunities I did. We’re all born without control to what those opportunities are, so if you’ve been fortunate enough to have any sort of privilege, enjoy it. But there’s also a responsibility to pass on opportunities to others.
The inclusion of autistic people in roles that suit their strengths is something that’s integrated directly into our business model, not as an afterthought or separate social outreach and at the forefront of my team’s mind as we continue to grow.
What does Rosie on Fire offer workers with autism?
What is central to our business is to not only be bottom line focused but to be purpose driven. We do this by focusing on creating long-term commercial partnerships with marginalised people who have skills, which we believe is the way to bring about real sustainable change. We are very clear this isn’t charity, it’s a fair commercial trade that’s beneficial to all parties involved. In addition to our artisan program where a number of our garments are stitched by marginalised communities, we run programs that allow autistic people to get involved in areas of business that suit their skills.
What do you hope other companies can learn from yours?
One of the goals of including a diverse workforce is not only the commercial benefit we achieve, but to showcase the commercial benefit that comes from hiring autistic people.
Our initiatives aren’t handouts – that’s not what people need, they need empowerment through opportunity.
Its not always just how clothes fit disabled people that can make the shopping experience difficult for disabled people as visually impaired shopper Chloe Tear recently highlighted.
But luckily for student Chloe, the issue came to the media fore for all the right reasons as she found herself being offered audio descriptions of clothes from a helpful staff member in Fat Face’s Leeds branch.
Chloe, who walks with a white cane was pleasantly surprised when she was offered the help and is now raising awareness and encouraging other stores to follow suit.
“One simple question can make such a big difference to the shopping experience for myself. If this was the new norm, how much of a difference could that make to so many other people?
“It gives, not only me, but anyone who was asked more independence and confidence to go out shopping, knowing that things wouldn’t be as hard as they currently are,” Chloe told BBC Radio Leeds.
Tommy Hilfiger hit the headlines back in 2016 when they worked with the Runway of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit organisation that pushes for inclusivity in fashion, on an adaptive children’s clothing line.
But they’re leading the pack again for high end designers by launching a stunning new campaign that doesn’t only showcase disabled modelling talent, but also features adapted clothes in line with the brand’s design and iconic look.
The label unveiled their Spring/Summer 2018 adaptive collection in the company of disabled model Mama Cax, US Paralympian Jeremy Campbell, internet cook Jeremiah Josey, dancer Chelsie Hill and two young models who introduced the line.
Design solutions such as adjustable hems, magnetic buttons, Velcro plackets in place of traditional zippers and buttons and easy to open necklines amongst others allows disabled people to fully access the major fashion label for the first time.
“Inclusivity and the democratisation of fashion have always been at the core of my brand’s DNA.
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” Hilfiger told American newsroom CNN.
Rebecca Morris has employed both her medical interest in the skin and passion for fashion to create her own empowering fashion brand backed by national disfigurement charity Changing Faces.
The Rebecca Violette collection launching on 18 June in London featuring active wear and a couture line is fronted by three models she met through Changing Faces, but she hopes its diversity reaches further than skin.
“I’m a doctor and my mum is a fashion designer, so I’ve always been interested in fashion and medicine,” she said.
“My original interest has always been in dermatology and the skin and the way people perceive others and themselves, but I am fascinated with fashion and express myself with what I wear, so I was trying to marry them and it evolved quite organically.
“Back in 2008 I did a project on art and anatomy and its always been there, but I never thought I would create a fashion brand.”
Rebecca’s brand surrounds the empowerment of words and colours in feeling beautiful in your skin.
“I love print because I feel like it tells a story and is powerful.
“I’ve used images of eyes and words like ‘look at me’ to tell people to look at people for who, not what they are. I did a focus group with Changing Faces to bring about some inspiration.
“Everything will be live on 18 June and things will be available for initial pre-order. I have had great support from a lot of charities including the British Skin Foundation and Coppa Feel so they are all invited to the launch to raise awareness for those who have been involved and I would love to do more work with them in the run up and beyond.”
When you think fashion, you think Vogue, darling.
PosAbility first met the masterminds behind the gorgeous spoke guard range Izzy Wheels back in February, and while the sister act of designer and creative director Ailbhe and brand ambassador Izzy Keane have already dominated (and still conquering) the spoke guard market, the dynamic duo are planning to become the go to fashion brand for wheelchair users.
And when they aren’t meeting with various fashion and print designers to collaborate with, they’ve been rubbing shoulders with fashion magazine giants like fashion bible Vogue.
“For anyone in design or fashion, the dream is to get in Vogue,” Ailbhe began.
“Last year we won The Leaders of Tomorrow Award with Accenture Ireland and we could choose where we wanted to go.
“We chose New York because a lot of our sales are from there but also because it was a fashion capital and to go to Vogue was our mission.
“One guy we met was Greg Fishman, who builds brands around people working with Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama. He was fascinated by our story, was really well-connected and asked who he could introduce us to. So, we asked for someone in Vogue just chancing our arm and within half an hour we got a phone call from Conde Nast [Vogue’s publishers] inviting us into Teen Vogue the next day!
“We met with Teen Vogue’s creative director who was really interested in what we were doing and they’re really trying to shine a light on inclusive fashion there. Then we were in British Vogue which was very cool!
“Doing a photoshoot in New York was another big dream of ours and we went to Williamsburg for it.
“We like creating photoshoots where our backdrops match the wheels and its normally me taking photos of Izzy but we were able to style a whole shoot and have a whole team working with us so I could be in them too. We had a team helping out and it was really special, it was lovely.”
High street retailer River Island have built on their successful campaign last year where they included young disabled models in their TV and print adverts. The RI Kid Squad integrates young disabled models and non-disabled children in their bright, fun and smile-fest campaigns in their new SS18 campaign, again in line with their ‘Labels are for Clothes’ drive.
Some of the kids, who have ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, Down’s syndrome and walking aids, are signed with Zebedee Management who represent disabled models.
Following the unveiling of the uplifting images, the parents began to raise awareness about the abilities of their children.
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