Dear Designers, Disabled People Deserve Fashion Too. Do Better.
Okay, we don't want to sound like a broken record, but at Liberare we think it's important to always continue talking about the issue of the lack of adaptive apparel in the fashion industry. Although our focus is on making the best adaptive bras and adaptive underwear, it's important as a company that makes clothing for disabled people to also advocate for them. Which is why we'll never stop calling out brands and designers for their lack of inclusivity and diversity. So today we're talking about a subject that we talk about often, the lack of accessibility in the fashion industry. From models to clothing to designs, ableism is prevalent throughout all aspects of it, and we want to talk about that this week.
It's no secret that there is not nearly enough clothing on the market for disabled people. Just to give a recap for those that aren't aware, there are 61 million people in the US and 1 billion people worldwide that have some kind of disability, which actually makes those with disabilities the largest minority in the world. Yet somehow, the world has not started to catch on to the need for adaptive apparel until very recently. The fact that we have gone this long is atrocious, and for brands to still ignore disabled people's needs is infuriating.
The issue is that now there is large monetary incentive, and although this means more will get involved in the movement, it also means that there will be brands that don't put enough effort into their pieces because they just want to make a profit and look as if they are adding to the social good. In fact, in 2017 the adaptive clothing industry was worth about 278.9 million, yet it’s projected to grow to 400 billion by 2026.
It could be even more, considering that 2020 has placed a huge focus on accessibility and social good. Adaptive apparel is being written about in major media publications such as Forbes, Popsugar, and Cosmopolitan.
As we mentioned before, so many designers have hopped on the trend. But is that enough?
As we research for our future lines and try to come up with new and innovative closures and design methods, what we see in our research is that there may be one or two pieces in a line that are adaptive, but the rest doesn't even seem to have the possibility of being adaptive at all. What we find even worse, however, is the brands that don't seem to be trying at all. That turn a blind eye to the issue that we have today and continue to say that they're "inclusive". In so many large brand's mission statements they say that they are for "all people" and that they want to make people "feel seen", but in order to do that don't you have to pay attention to disabled people too? Are they not included in this category?
Some of these brands even have disabled people in their runway shows and yet they don't advertise any adaptive clothing. They use what disabled people represent without actually caring about their ability to wear the clothes. It's unacceptable, and it's time to start listening. As consumers we shouldn't let designers get away with this, there is no excuse anymore.
Adaptive clothing is not impossible. Especially for huge brands with seemingly unlimited resources, this should be expected. If you can be size inclusive, you can be ability-inclusive.
It's Not Impossible
The major issue that we would like to discuss about these brands that don't offer adaptive apparel is that it's not impossible, and in some cases it's really not that hard. You can make beautiful clothing that's more inclusive without even changing things majorly. For example, certain fabrics are very irritating to those with autism or sensory processing disabilities. Just yesterday I was getting my hair done and I was telling the hairdresser about what I do. When I told her about this, she immediately realized that's why one of her clients wears all of her clothes inside out. Because things that we might not realize like an unnecessary seam or two can make a garment unwearable for someone with that kind of disability.
And newsflash, that's not that hard to get rid of. For wheelchair users, all they need is another size of pant where the back of the pant goes up a little bit higher. For those with mobility issues, sometimes all they need is a bigger armhole. We're not asking for you to change everything you know about clothing and throw away what you've designed in the past. We're asking that you at least listen and take into consideration that you have the ability to make 1 billion people feel seen and listened to, and you don't. We just think it's about time that all brands take that opportunity to understand what adaptive apparel means and try to participate in it, even if that means altering the measurements on a few tee shirts. It's okay to start small, we're just asking that you start.
In conclusion, designers, adaptive apparel is completely possible and attainable if you choose to pursue it, and we encourage you to.