Photography by Getty Images
From design elements for the visually impaired to undergarment fasteners for wheelchair users, here are seven labels making fashion more inclusive.
Date April 4, 2023
Fashion has long touted its efforts to be more inclusive. But one group that disproportionately gets left out of the conversation is those with disabilities. While nearly 22 per cent of the Canadian population is part of this community, clothing catered to access needs is still not an industry norm. Nevertheless, awareness and demand for accessible clothing are on the rise. Adaptive fashion — made for people with disabilities and health conditions for which getting dressed can present challenges — is a market that grows more year after year. Here are some standout adaptive clothing brands that are working to make fashion more inclusive for people with disabilities.
For those with physical constraints, putting on underwear is not as simple as slipping one leg in after another. With a mission to give people with disabilities more independence in day-to-day dressing, Slick Chicks specializes in easy-to-latch-on intimates for all-day comfort. Bras can be done up in the front via velcro or zippers, and underwear has side fasteners so that wearers can put them on whether they’re standing, sitting or lying down. Plus, Slick Chicks offers athleisure options, featuring open sleeves, elastic waistbands, and clasp buttons, and all pieces are showcased on an array of body sizes and abilities.
Womenswear brand Von Ruz takes a “demi-couture” approach to inclusive clothing design by fusing accessibility and fashionability. Based in Paris, France, the label aims to offer ease and wearability without compromising aesthetics, with add-in elements like magnetic fastenings and wrap-around waistbands. Along with experimental eveningwear, Von Ruz offers an inclusive take on professional attire. Detachable blazers feature magnetic zip-able sleeves, and trousers can be buttoned up along pant legs for people with prosthetic limbs.
This German label makes ready-to-wear clothing for little people that, unlike standard clothing options, don’t have to be altered or changed. Auf Augenheohe ships worldwide and caters to all genders, from form-fitting sheer tights and leggings to streetwear and accessories. The site provides instructions on how people with short stature can measure their bodies, and the brand matches measurements with exact sizing recommendations to ensure garments fit every time.
Canadian founder Alexa Jovanovic works with blind and visually impaired people to create customizable clothing with braille inscriptions. Each handmade piece features a message embellished with intricate beadwork with the goal of initiating conversations and awareness about disability inclusion. Aille Design can also apply braille beadwork to pre-owned pieces, with free consultations available on how to go about the customization process. Plus, five per cent of all T-shirt sales are donated to organizations for the visually impaired.
Photography by Sophia Schrank
When creating Los Angeles label 323, Jillian Maddocks drew inspiration from her “quirky personality and limitations” as a neurodivergent and chronically ill person. Filled with kaleidoscopic colours and billowing silhouettes, 323 offers size-, gender-, and disability-inclusive garments. It’s also sustainability-minded, using materials like insulation foam, plastic bottle caps, and vintage quilted blankets to create capes and dresses. All items can be easily worn without undergarments for those hypersensitive to the touch of clothing, and most can be seamlessly pulled on.
Founder Wendy Wong was inspired by her aunt, June, who lost mobility in an accident and struggled to find adaptive clothing. The Canadian brand designs specifically for those with mobility challenges — be it due to disabilities or recovery from medical treatments. Sneakers have adjustable velcro fastenings and can be altered based on height and width, while garments like pants and jean jackets come with elements like magnetic buttons, zippers and easy-touch closures.
Since first venturing into accessible clothing design in 2004, founder Izzy Camilleri has become a pioneer in adaptive clothing. Offering a spin on timeless classics, IZ Adaptive creates pieces for people of all genders who are wheelchair users or living with limited mobility. From sleek footwear with wraparound zippers to chinos without back seams designed for seated bodies, garments are made to be both functional and stylish. The Boucle Cape, for instance, is a cozy wool-blend piece made to be seamlessly worn over anything, with a wide neck opening, stretchy fabric and a design suited for all body types.