Photo by IZ Adaptive
By Allie Murray
For far too long, the fashion industry has been lacking one important thing: disability-friendly clothing. Now, brands are stepping up to create and offer adaptive clothing, striving to make the fashion world fun and inclusive for all.
Disability-friendly clothing has been dubbed as adaptive fashion, utilizing designs that are easier for those with disabilities or caregivers, such as rear-closures, velcro, softer fabrics for comfort for wheelchair users, and more.
These three brands are pulling on real-life challenges that they themselves, and others worldwide, struggle with every day, showcasing the importance (and style!) of adaptive fashion.
IZ Adaptive was born of creative passion, love, and the recognition that there is a great need in the world for stylish, well-fitting, comfortable clothes for people who were living with physical disabilities.
At Iz Adaptive, it’s their mission to provide timeless and adaptive clothing to as many people as possible so that everyone can live in comfort, style, dignity, and empowerment. Within the enormous and ever-expanding fashion world, there are relatively few options for those in our global community that identify as living with a physical disability.
The IZ Adaptive timeless classics have the day-to-day physical realities of their customers at the forefront of their thinking, from the cut of the revolutionary Game Changer Collection to the Ease-of-Dress and seated fit of the outerwear.
What started as a side project that founder Marta Elena Cortez-Neavel took on while applying to medical school turned into an adaptive clothing brand that took the world by storm. She was inspired to start an adaptive clothing line for infants by her friend who worked as a pediatric surgeon for babies with medical devices.
Blending her love for fashion and passion and knowledge in the medical field, Marta created Abilitee Adaptive Wear, offering adaptive fashion for disabled infants, children and adults.
“Everyone who was facing clothing-related challenges as a result of their disability could benefit from clothing designed with their preferences and needs in mind,” she explained. “And many people were asking for this, but the market wasn’t responding in a meaningful way.”
Abilitee paved the way for its own brand, which relaunched with new items earlier this year, as well as secured a partnership with American Eagle’s Aerie, releasing a collaboration with the brand and named their Adaptive Brand Partner.
Abilitee is also working with the Futurekind Initiative for Disability Inclusion on “Project Futurekind,” which aims to open up conservation about inclusive, adaptive clothing and give brands the tools they need to join the movement.
After becoming disabled in her 20s, Victoria Jenkins noticed a gap in clothing for those with disabilities. After chatting with other patients during her hospital stay in 2016, Jenkins realized that clothing for people with disabilities was uncomfortable in more ways than one. Jenkins met another patient who had survived cancer and was left with multiple other conditions, including a stoma that was attached to her stomach to release waste.
“Every time the doctors came round, she had to remove all her clothing, usually in front of a team of doctors,” Jenkins explained. “She couldn’t access her own stoma, arm line, or chest port without removing clothing or exposing herself in some way.”
This story inspired Jenkins to create Unhidden Clothing, producing a variety of clothes specially adapted for all conditions and abilities, including dresses with double layers for tubes and ports, shirts with magnetic or velcro sleeve openings, and much more.
In the U.K., where Unhidden Clothing is based, one in five people have a disability, but have limited representation or access to products to help them live a more equal and comfortable life. Disability activists, including Jenkins, are calling on brands to be more inclusive and accessible.