Tommy Hilfiger has set an encouraging precedent by becoming the first mainstream fashion house to launch an adaptive collection suitable for children living with disabilities. The new clothing line is a collaboration with Runway of Dreams; Mindy Scheier founded the organisation after coming up with a series of modifications which would allow her son Oliver, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, to wear the same style of clothes as his friends.
Scheier’s own background is in design, and her frustration at the lack of adaptive clothing in mainstream fashion, especially for kids, led to her starting Runway of Dreams. “Not only are these modifications possible, they fit into the design process that’s already in place,” she says. “I’m not recreating the wheel, we are just modifying what exists.”The value of adaptive clothing isn’t just in being able to wear popular styles and feel that you fit in; self-dressing is a milestone of independence for differently abled children. Scheier assembled focus groups to identify the key obstacles to this, such as buttons and zippers, and replaced them with simple magnet closures. Additionally, instead of pulling clothes on or off over the head, the wearer can enter Runway of Dreams items through the back, and garment lengths can be adjusted to suit seated positions.
Tommy Hilfiger will be releasing these clothes as part of its mainstream Spring collection. As a brand which caters to the entire age range, this is an important step in inclusivity, and Scheier hopes that Tommy Hilfiger will be the first of many labels to take the varying needs of differently abled customers into consideration.
“Similar to plus-size departments, our goal is that there’s an adaptive department for every brand and retailer,” she says. “Our modifications are meant to be utilised in any other collection — children’s, women’s, men’s… It’s an enormous department that’s not serviced by the industry. There’s so much opportunity.”