Fashion + Disability

The Disability Sector in Fashion: Under Represented and Under Appreciated

Coming to write this article I had no idea how much the disability sector is under represented in the fashion industry. It has completely opened my eyes to what a lot of us never realise. In the UK there are over 14 million disabled people, this is around 47% of the population. So how is the fashion industry missing such a big target market? The industry includes ranges for petite sizes, plus sizes, tall and even shoes have ranges for wide fitting, but there is no disability range. This comes as a shock to me but before researching further into this, it never crossed my mind that functional fashion was lacking. You never see them modelling clothes or walking down the runway, is it because brands don’t cater for them or they just don’t want them in their campaigns?

Sports clothing being the only option

Nike have a range of shoes and clothing that are easier to wear and adjustable to suit the individuals needs. This is no surprise as Nike are the sponsored clothing brand for the British Paralympic team. However, active clothing can only be taken so far, they can’t wear a pair of Nike leggings to a nice restaurant can they! Elba is another brand that helps with easy wear and active wear. They produce bras with easy front fastening and have created a sports range and an everyday range. This is a perfect example of what should be widely available and easy to get access to without the extra cost. Brands that cater for the disabled sector are not mainstream brands like Topshop or New Look, they are brands you’ve probably never heard of before and won’t find in your local shopping centre. This makes it harder for disabled shoppers as they have to order online and can’t physically try the clothes on like we normally do.

Building their self-esteem

Not being able to shop where everyone else does or wear the same sort of clothing like everyone else must be a hard experience. It is such a huge sector you’d think there would be at least one shop open to cater for them. According to The Guardian, disabled shoppers represent £249bn of spending power https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2019/dec/30/why-2019-was-a-landmark-year-for-disabled-fashion. A fashion brand should be crying out to tap into this market. It has also been made noticeable that brands don’t include any disabilities within their campaigns. The only brand that has done a major campaign and included disabilities is Gap. They have included children with cerebral palsy amongst other children and made everyone seem equal wearing the same clothing. Gap was highly praised for their campaign, especially to include children, as it showed that even with a disability they can dress just like everyone else. Gap also had their accessible clothing available in store which made shopping ten times easier.

Medical cost causing a lack

Creating an adaptive clothing range for different needs can, as expected, come at a cost. Medical advice and input is a must. The clothing range has to be safe for the users and actually work for them. Most of us wouldn’t think twice about how we physically get dressed but imagine if you were in a wheelchair or physically incapable of putting socks on. This changes your whole world. Clothing is being made to make getting dressed easier and in a safe way. Not only is this an essential thing, but it can impact a person’s mood and mental health. If they can have clothing that allows them to dress themselves and is fashionable it becomes a huge mood booster. There are arguments that creating an adaptive clothing line has the same cost as creating any other clothing line from scratch. Although, a lot more thought has to go into creating adaptive clothing. You have to think about the user, is it safe, is it easy to wear, does it actually support their needs. The user can’t just pick up a random item of clothing, it has to be completely suitable for them. This is why fashion shopping must be so difficult.

Creating fashion for all

Everyone should be able to enjoy and have access to any style of clothing they desire. And it’s sad to hear that the fashion industry are leaving behind accessible fashion for those that need it. Fashion is a way of people to express themselves and expose ourselves how we want the world to see us, we shouldn’t deprive the less able of doing this. Fashion for them shouldn’t just be accessible it should also have style and keep up with the ever changing styles. I hope in the future we see more accessible fashion, not just in stores but in campaigns and on the catwalk.

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