According to the latest Census Bureau data, approximately 85.3 million people in the United States live with disabilities. American research institutes estimate the potential income of this group at $490 billion a year. This is important for business development – the involvement of another large group in marketing and sales will positively influence the economy.
The question arises: how the fashion industry still widely ignores people with disabilities during the era of inclusiveness?
Some fashion brands have acknowledged this group of consumers as an opportunity to expand their audience and have responded accordingly. Tommy Hilfiger was one of the first brands that began to produce clothing for people with disabilities. The first wear line was launched for children in 2016; soon the wear line for adults was also launched. The characteristics of such things included magnetic buttons and zippers, adjustable holes for hands and legs.
Another example, when 16-year-old Matthew Walzer wrote to Nike in 2015 about his desire to put on sneakers without any help, the company intensively for three years developed a special model FlyEase with a revolutionary zipper system and strap – it allows you to take off and put on shoes quickly and comfortably. Then other representatives of the fashion industry began to join such an initiative: Pyer Moss, Chromat, and ASOS.
What is the main idea of fashion for people with special needs?
The main idea of such initiatives is that people with disabilities should be not just dressed in specially designed and adaptive clothing and shoes that were created for them, but could feel comfortable. What is done for them must also be done for ordinary people.
Many brands should remember not only the social component of such initiatives. The main thing is to create an environment of understanding around people with disabilities. If a brand has invited a model in a wheelchair to the shoot, it means that it has to take care of how comfortable and safe he/she will be. This is important because any other person while looking at advertising and posters will see the company as socially responsible, but they will not know what was going on behind the scenes. It is not about having a wheelchair ramp in the office – it is much more than that.
Yes, the fashion industry is gradually moving towards developing adaptive clothing and fashion options for people with disabilities; but we still face huge structural barriers to achieving equality for people with disabilities. It is best illustrated by statistics, in particular: unemployment. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for people with disabilities was only 19.1% in 2018. The numbers speak for themselves, and therefore fashion brands need to think about pricing their clothing and shoes.
Fashion can reform society to help people with disabilities as much as it can. Fashion industry leaders have an opportunity to show interest in this issue and there is a possibility other brands will follow them. Let’s live in harmony and accept the world as it is; help those who need our help – sincerely and with respect.