“The biggest mistake brands make is that they expect everyone to fit one size or style. We know that’s not the case – exactly the same is true for disabilities. There is a wide range and with each comes different needs when it comes to clothing. So we have to try to stay flexible and adaptive and learn from personal experiences. That’s why projects and workshops like Uniqlo’s are important because they bring different perspectives together and try to understand how they can change the status quo,” explains Gordon Reid.

Of course, the spatial and structural level must also be included, since shopping in physical stores is still associated with bypassing barriers such as accessibility, a lack of equipment (different types of dressing aids) or space in changing rooms. Gordon Reid knows this from his own experience: “Many stores are not accessible to people with disabilities, be it at the entrance, due to a lack of lifts or changing rooms that are too small or not adequately equipped. Of course, that makes the whole shopping experience difficult. So it’s important to educate people and show them where there is a need.”

Adaptive fashion goes far beyond clothing – and affects us all

In terms of design, there is still a lot of room to fill. With the assumption that adaptive styles always have to fulfill a functionality, many items of clothing are limited to just this one aspect. Similar to expanding the size model, it is also important to understand: It’s not about inventing something new, but about opening up existing concepts and making fashion accessible to everyone – Everyday clothing, but also extravagant creations. The “SMA my way” community initiative at New York Fashion Week 2022 demonstrated what this can look like. The community, aimed at people with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, partnered with pharmaceutical company Roche to organize a fashion show ‘aiming at increasing the visibility of disabilities, breaking down stereotypes and promoting adaptive fashion’ that didn’t pigeonhole anyone. Because here, too, only further possibilities open up for an equal future, since adaptive styles (i.e. styles tailored to needs) are intended for everyone and in the end can be worn by everyone: everyone. Especially in the area of ​​innovation, the topic is an additional building block that can advance the entire industry.

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Adaptive mode: What can concrete measures look like?

Above all, it is important not to think in binary patterns and to reproduce less what we have been taught about viewing habits. Creating touchpoints and making this side of inclusivity visible to all is essential. This can be done with advertising campaigns, models with disabilities in fashion shows or shootings, on social media or even hands-on, as with Uniqlo, which started its pilot project in October 2022 with “Auf Augenhöhe”, a fashion label for people of short stature people who want to achieve just that. With workshops and the repair and modification studio RE.UNIQLO, as a platform for mutual exchange and direct personalization. In the future (spring 2023) a concept for an adaptive change service for customers with disabilities will also be launched in this context. Because it needs role models, visible meeting places and people who develop products that everyone thinks for themselves. Like the Ffora brand, which produces personalized accessories that make everyday life with a wheelchair easier, or the Liberare underwear label, which makes beautiful and easy-to-wear products. But the UK retail platform Adaptista, which is an absolute pioneer as the first inclusive and adaptive multi-brand store, also ensures that adaptive fashion becomes more visible to the general public. A great relief when it comes to topic shopping and a good approach for companies to become more active.

By Eily

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