Tommy Hilfiger has released an adaptive clothing line for adults with disabilities.
The project aims to improve inclusion within the fashion world by conquering a huge part of the market often untapped by the industry.
“Inclusivity and the democratisation of fashion have always been at the core of my brand’s DNA,” the designer said. “These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion.”
The so-called Adaptive Collection debuted on the American website on Thursday 19 October and worldwide on Saturday 21, featuring 37 menswear and 34 womenswear styles based on the brand’s sportswear line. Prices range from $29.50 (£22.43) to $139.50 (£106.07).
The clothes are designed to be easier for the less able-bodied customer to wear. Button-down shirts have Velcro and magnetic fastenings to help wearers pull them over their heads – or get dressed with one hand. Trousers, including denim jeans and chinos, are provided with flies, larger leg openings and hems to accommodate braces and prosthetic limbs. Other items also have pull-on pant loops inside the waist bands, allowing the wearer to pull them on with more ease.
Last spring, Tommy Hilfiger collaborated with MagnaReady and Runway of Dreams for an adaptive children’s collection. MagnaReady is a line of magnetically infused shirts launched by Maura Horton, after seeing how Parkinson’s meant her husband experienced difficulty with buttons. Runway of Dreams, a non-profit organisation founded in 2014, focuses on educating the mainstream fashion industry on adapting clothing for people with disabilities.
This time, the brand said that no external collaborations were involved in the project.
The initiative was well received by British disability rights organisations and charities. As Philip Connolly, Policy and Development Manager at Disability Rights UK told The Telegraph, “The best part of this is that Tommy Hilfiger has not designed a collection that looks any different to his other ranges, he’s simply adapted them to offer this choice of fastenings and shapes”.
Richard Lane, head of communications at disability charity Scope, explained to The HuffPost UK the economic influence of this market.
“Disabled people and their families in the UK have an enormous spending power – dubbed the purple pound – of £249bn” he said.
Research shows that the fashion industry needs to work on improving accessibility. The Extra Costs Commission, an independent inquiry studying the additional expenditures faced by disabled people, found out that three-in-four such consumers have left a shop due to poor customer service, and businesses that don’t meet their needs risk losing a share of £420m in sales each week. To improve the situation the Purple social enterprise launched the “Help Me Spend My Money” campaign to promote disability awareness in the retail industry.
However, as Connolly added in his interview with The Telegraph, inclusion must be enhanced among professionals too, ensuring that “the people who get job opportunities through this market are themselves disabled people. Both in retail, assisting customers in the shops, but also at the design development stage.”
There’s still a long way to go, but the “democratisation of fashion” as Tommy Hilfiger called it, has (hopefully) just begun.