Asos has launched a wheelchair-friendly jumpsuit, designed in partnership with British paralympic athlete and BBC Bristol sports reporter Chloe Ball-Hopkins. The collaboration came about after Ball-Hopkins sent an email to the company, urging it to offer adaptive clothing options -- after all, disabled people want to be stylish too.
So over the last several months I have been working with @ASOS to create a fashionable, yet practical waterproof all in one! Not just for people like me in a chair but for anyone. It's about making fashion accessible! So what should be next?! https://t.co/1gzzkRlED9 pic.twitter.com/7yS57QEmpD— Chloe Ball-Hopkins (@chloe_ballhopzy) July 4, 2018
Launched earlier this week, the waterproof tye-dye jumpsuit was designed with the festival season in mind. “People like myself, who are in a chair, we get cold very easily, and water and rain definitely don’t help that”, said Ball-Hopkins in a live interview on BBC. The jumpsuit consists of a jacket and trousers that zip together around the waist. It also allows the wearer to adjust the sleeve length. “It’s not about making disabled fashion, it’s about making fashion accessible”, noted the paralympic athlete on Twitter.
The jumpsuit retails for 69.99 euros in Europe, 64 US dollars in the United States and 50 pounds in the UK. Asos delivers worldwide.
Social media users are praising the brand for its decision to work with Ball-Hopkins, emphasizing the lack of clothing options for disabled consumers, as well as the absence of models with disabilities in advertising campaigns.
Great to see this sort of representation on the @ASOS website. Shopping is something most of us take for granted in terms of representation. Seeing disabled people in the media through campaigns, as actors, singers is so important as it challenges the stigma around disabilities. pic.twitter.com/asQAprWFxS— Gurls Talk (@gurlstalk) July 4, 2018
Fashion brands start to pay more attention to disabled consumers
While Asos is receiving compliments on social media for “leading the way” towards more inclusive fashion, the British e-tailer is not the first mainstream brand to open its eyes for the needs of disabled shoppers. Little by little, apparel companies are realizing that consumers with special needs do not want to be restricted to shopping at stores specifically targeted at them.
People with disabilities do not form a small market, either. “There are one billion people on our planet that experience some type of disability. One billion. If 10 percent of that billion experience clothing challenges, that's an enormous amount of people that may not be as confident, as successful or even as happy as they could be”, said Mindy Scheier, founder of non-profit organization Runway of Dreams, in a Ted Talk given in partnership with Tommy Hilfiger in November 2017. The organization aims to educate the fashion industry about changes that can be made to mainstream clothing in order to make them suitable and comfortable for everyone. Small modifications, such as magnet buttons and elastic waistbands, can make a lot of difference.
Tommy Hilfiger was the first mainstream brand to launch a clothing line for children with disabilities. Developed in partnership with Runway of Dreams, the collection released in 2016 featured 22 pieces which looked the same as the brand’s regular kids line. In 2017 Tommy Hilfiger expanded the line to include adult pieces as well. Titled “Tommy Adaptive”, it features T-shirts, shorts, dresses, pants and jackets featuring adjustable waists and hems, magnetic buttons, velcro and other additions that make it easier for people with special needs to put the clothes on.
American retailer Target followed a similar route. After launching an adaptive kids’ line in 2017, the company announced a new line for adults earlier this year. Titled “Universal thread”, the collection features jeans with wider legs and hidden openings for abdominal access, and T-shirts with flat seams and heat-stamped labels instead of tags.
Nike launched its FlyEase shoes in 2015, targeting disabled consumers for whom tying and untying shoelaces is difficult. Nike’s designer Tobie Hatfield developed the shoes after Matthew Walzer, an American high-school student with Cerebral Palsy, wrote a letter to the company. “My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes everyday. I’ve worn Nike basketball shoes all my life. I can only wear this type of shoe, because I need ankle support to walk”, read the letter, of which an excerpt has been published on Nike’s website.
Last year, Kelly Knox became one of the first disabled models to feature at London Fashion Week. Born without a left forearm, she modelled for luxury fashion label Teatum Jones.
There is, however, a lot of room for growth. Considering the amount of praise Asos has been getting on social media, both disabled and able-bodied people would be happy to see the mainstream fashion industry change.
Pictures: Asos website, courtesy of Tommy Hilfiger, Target website