Inclusivity within fashion has grown at a rapid rate over recent years. Slowly but surely, disabled people are being catered for too. Vast developments are being made in adaptive clothing and its becoming more easily accessible from various dominant brands. However, there is still room for progression in clothing made specific for different disabilities, one of which being ostomy bag wearers.
Over 6,400 people undergo ostomy surgery every year. Most clothing that caters for ostomy bags is only available via prescription or at an increased cost. Thus, the market is unsaturated with significant demand. So, why have fashion brands decided not to enter this sector?
Shopping when disabled or, more specifically, as an ostomate, is disheartening. Feeling comfortable, confident and stylish is nearly impossible to fulfill. When googling ‘ostomy bag clothing’ no brand comes at the top of the search. Instead, blogs of ostomates explaining their struggles of finding suitable clothing, fills the page. Small start up brands and charities do offer some, however it is expensive and outdated. The demand is there and a huge gap in the market is waiting to be filled by an affordable fashion brand.
What’s stopping brands catering for ostomates?
Ostomy bag clothing requires substantial medical input and has to be made personal to the individual. Hence, it comes as no surprise that big fast fashion brands, whose main priority is making big profits, haven’t opted to include it in their ranges. But are big revenues going to be enough for brands to stay successful in the near future? Customers across the spectrum today are demanding transparency, inclusivity and sustainability. It is inevitable that unless companies in fashion wake up to the demands of the disabled sector, they will soon fall behind competitors who are willing to cater for their needs.
It’s important to recognise too, that the ostomy market is not a lost cause. In 2018 the global ostomy care and accessories market size was valued at $3 billion. And as made clear previously, there are plenty of ostomate sufferers actively looking for adaptive clothing from fashion-forward brands.
If a range was to be made by a big high-street brand for ostomates, an increased cost is unavoidable. Medical research is needed and so is extra raw materials and production costs. But, this shouldn’t stop them. These costs would likely be reduced by mass production and economies of scale, as they will be producing big quantities. As a result, it makes it cheaper for the consumer as they can be sold at less expensive prices in comparison to smaller start-ups. Benefitting both the brand and the customer.
Product isn’t enough, what about representation?
Whilst it’s all well and good offering products that cater for disabilities, the representation of them across fashion is just as imperative. Everyone has the right to feel confident and fashionable no matter what their disability or condition. It is inherently unfair that some don’t get the same experience in fashion as the rest of us. Representation of disabled people is nearly nonexistent amongst high-street and premium fashion brands. It is unimaginable how it must feel to never see an image similar to yourself in campaigns and on the catwalk, something us ‘normal’ consumers take for granted.
In order to rectify this, representation across fashion needs to be comprehensive of all different genders, sexualities, races, religions etc. without forgetting disabilities like ostomy bag wearers. Weather that be on websites, campaigns, advertisements, catwalks; ostomates and other disabilities are not to be forgotten in fashion.
We are the push for change
It’s essential to keep pushing brands to take the stance that profits should not be the main priority. Tackling social issues head on is just as important for brands to stay relevant and ahead of competitors. The misrepresentation of disabled consumers or the exclusion of affordable adaptive clothing are just some of these issues. Including disabled customers, such as ostomates, across fashion needs to be normalised and representation needs to cover all basis.
For those of us that have the privilege of not feeling the injustice of being disabled, it’s our responsibility to chose to shop at brands that are inclusive. Without us as ‘normal’ consumers continuing to be demanding on the industry, no change will be made.