I’m big on New Year’s resolutions and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, so I had been thinking about launching a ‘disabled fashion girlie’ series for a while before finally feeling that it was the right time last January. What a lot of people don’t know is that before that, I had been hiding my arm under long sleeves or positioning myself in photos so people couldn’t see it. It took a lot for me to make that complete 180 to spotlight the thing I was most insecure about. But it also felt like a part of my purpose. I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason—likewise, that I was born like this for a reason. I never saw creators or models like me growing up, and I wanted to be that for anyone who might find my content online.
Since the first post for ‘Normalising disabled fashion gurlies on your feed’, it’s only been such a beautiful snowball; I’ve had parents of disabled children telling me that they find me inspiring for their kids and connecting with the rest of the disabled community has also been so rewarding.
View this post on Instagram
Granted, over the last few years, we’ve experienced so much progress in so many different areas. Be it the plus-size community or racial diversity, people have been thinking and have constantly been reminded about it; you see it in brand campaigns and marketing across the board. I do feel like the disabled community is only being discussed just now, as brands are finally having conversations about adaptive lines behind the scenes. These conversations maybe happened five or ten years ago for the plus-size community, which is why it’s a lot more accessible now but as a disabled person, I would say there’s not much visibility on adaptive lines or brands at all. So I don’t shop from them because I don’t know about them nor hear about them at all. I’m sure if I sought them out actively and did more research I would find them but I do think the fact that I don’t hear about them at all does say something.
For the longest time, I—and probably others in the disabled community as well—have gotten so used to just making our own adaptations to our clothes. And buying normal clothes because we love them. Even till now, I wear sweaters and just roll up my sleeves. Whilst others I know might purchase items with wider necklines, avoid buttons or opt for zippers. I do feel it’s tough, because you don’t want to sacrifice the style and quality just because it’s adaptive.
Just like how the plus-size community had just been waiting for brands to create the same stuff in bigger sizes, it works the same way for the disabled community. We want the same cool clothes—but we just want it to be something we can easily wear. Of course, there are a few big brands—I know that Tommy Hilfiger has Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive, which is one of the first adaptive lines that I’ve seen from a well-known heritage brand. I have a few pieces from the collection that are really great. But sometimes for these adaptive lines, the quality is actually sacrificed. For someone like me who’s into fashion, quality comes over anything else and making sure you find those pieces that you resonate with is so important.
As someone with a background in working for beauty brands, I can see it from a brand’s perspective; how it’s not always possible to create mass lines or produce too much of a specific item. We can be realistic about it, but I think a solution could be producing in smaller quantities or smaller drops of things. And speaking to people within the disabled community to know what we really need.
It can be difficult to know where to start for sure, because even within the community, there are a few different disabilities to account for. With adaptive brands that currently exist, I think it’s important to remember that just because it’s this big, loose cloth that can be draped over easily, doesn’t mean we actually want to wear it. I would much rather ask someone to help me zip up. So the gap is definitely in the luxury space; we’re missing quality, stylish pieces that are timeless no matter who’s wearing them. After all, we too, want to get our closet essentials from the same brands that our peers are shopping from.
I think it’s definitely interesting to see more popular brands like Tommy Hilfilger and Ugg be the first few well-known brands to successfully transform their popular styles into adaptive or disabled-friendly options. But I would love to see some of my personal favourite brands do a similar thing. And I’m sure others like me would too. We just want to feel seen by the brands that we’ve loved for so long.
View this post on Instagram
20 years ago, adaptive lines didn’t exist. In the meantime, we have just been wearing normal clothes and figuring it out on our own. So we want to continue to do that. But we want it to get easier for us to wear and adapt into our lifestyle. Like if Reformation or Aritzia had an adaptive line and I was already at the store or shopping from their online catalogue, then I would opt for that instead.
At the end of the day, the clothes we wear are super personal—whether it’s adaptive or not. So if we’re talking about how we can progress further, any progress is good progress. Sometimes it starts with visibility in marketing campaigns, such as seeing disabled talent or creators in the campaigns. For the disabled community to see themselves in the brands that they love, and feel seen and heard. It may not be perfect, but having those open conversations is important. You’re probably not an expert—most people aren’t—so it’s important to ask someone who’s from the disabled community about their opinions. For me, buttons can be really tough, so I look for magnetics or zippers or velcro things that you can easily press on or pull off. But for someone in a wheelchair, slits in the pants might be really helpful, or zips in the sides of the pants. Wider necklines are great too, for people to easily pull it over their head. So I think it’s about having those conversations and not being afraid to start somewhere.
It’s exactly like what I’ve been trying to do with my online space, it’s about ‘normalising’ this—which to me, is a huge word because yes, I’m disabled, but my goal is for people to see past that. To get over the “taboo” factor of seeing a girl with one hand, and rather respect and value my work as any other creator in the fashion ecosystem—for it to truly become normal.