words Alexa Wang
The fashion industry has, for decades, catered mostly for people of a certain size and shape. But this trend is shifting, most notably with the rise of the adaptive fashion market. Some estimates project that the market will be worth around $400 billion globally by 2026 – but what is it, exactly?
Image by Freepik
What is adaptive fashion?
‘Adaptive’ fashion exists to cater for individuals with specialised needs. For certain people with certain sensory and medical conditions, standard clothing is incredibly uncomfortable and restricting. And these people are willing to pay for a solution.
The garments for sale in this market put the focus on the particular challenges faced by disabled people. They’re often crafted by disabled designers with a unique insight into the problems in question, and the potential solutions.
Buttons and zips, for example, might be dispensed with in favour of velcro and magnetic fastenings. Consumers with particular medical devices might look for clothes with special openings so that those devices can be used without having to take the entire outfit off.
Of course, as innovative as this all might sound, it’s fairly well-trodden territory. Pregnant women and nursing mothers have long benefitted from loose-fitting clothing that can be easily rearranged for discrete breast-feeding. It’s just that now, those modifications are being shaped by a smaller group of people with even more particular practical needs.
Adaptive fashion isn’t just practical, however. It can also provide a much-needed confidence boost, perhaps to those who are adjusting to a new set of life circumstances. Adaptive fashion garments can provide support for people born with disabilities, or those who may have recently suffered serious injury and are going through the process of making claims for amputation and injury to help regain their confidence and their personal sense of style and identity.
Designers and brands
So, exactly which brands should we be on the lookout for? One name that’s made an impact at London Fashion Week is Unhidden. This is an award-winning fashion brand that holds the distinction of being the first adaptive fashion brand to join the British Fashion Council.
The availability of these clothes makes a big difference to the target market. It creates the chance for independence, inclusivity, and self-expression that many of us take for granted. Given that workplace barriers for disabled people are slowly but surely being dismantled, there’s an opportunity for fashion brands to find a new customer base.
Adaptive fashion also sends a message to wider society, and helps to make disabled people more visible. After all, there’s a reason that ‘Unhidden’ is named the way it is!