Why it is important that fashion reaches out to the disabled community


Zalando presents its first collection of clothing and accessories tailored to people with disabilities. Photo: AFP

Still a taboo subject in the fashion industry, disability is struggling to find its place in ready-to-wear collections, as well as on the runway. This could change with the first initiatives from some of the sector's heavyweights.

After Tommy Hilfiger, it is the multi-brand platform Zalando that is presenting a first adaptive fashion collection, featuring clothes and accessories tailored to the needs of the disabled community.

More than one billion people live with some form of disability worldwide, or nearly 15% of the world's population, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in November 2021.

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This figure is clearly on the rise, making people with disabilities the largest minority in the world.

Yet few fashion brands have included the disabled community in their offers, proposing zero, or very few, clothes adapted to wheelchair use or prosthetics, for example.

While there are brands that specialise in this kind of fashion, such as Constant & Zoe, Selfia and Camille Boillet Couture, the giants of the sector are still lagging behind in terms of the inclusion of the disabled community.

Fastening a shirt, tying shoelaces, putting on shoes or putting on a sweater may be trivial, almost automatic, processes for some people, but they can prove tricky for people with disabilities.

And that's something that many in the fashion industry have not yet taken into account when developing collections. But there are some exceptions.

Tommy Hilfiger is one of the pioneers in this field, with its Adaptive collection, first for children, then extended to adults in recent years.

Now it's Zalando's turn to offer its first collection tailored to people with disabilities, through its own brands Zign, Pier One, Anna Field, Yourturn and Even&Odd, and covering 25 markets.

No less than 140 styles, including clothing, footwear and a selection of accessories, will be offered for sale to meet the different needs of people with permanent or temporary disabilities.

The first pieces are specifically designed for wheelchair use or the wearing of prosthetic limbs and bandages, for example.

Some garments are also adapted to sensory sensitivity, or designed with easy closures to facilitate the daily life of those concerned.

"Our vision is to be the Starting Point for Fashion that is welcoming to everyone. We see a gap in the fashion market – finding fashionable adaptive clothing still represents a challenge for disabled people," explains Sara Diez, vice president, category women and private labels, at Zalando.

"We hope to contribute to solving this challenge and offer a varied selection of stylish adaptive fashion across price and size in one place.

"We want to learn from the disabled community and inspire our partners, so that together we can continue building a delightful experience for our disabled customers and making fashion even more inclusive."

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At the same time, Zalando has chosen to enhance its offer by proposing the Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive collection in nine of its markets, offering more than 130 styles for women, men and children.

It's an initiative that could inspire many others in the fashion industry, while helping shatter taboos surrounding disability in fashion. – AFP Relaxnews

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