Today, creating inclusive products is fast becoming an essential skill within companies and organisations.
What about inclusive fashion?
How can it be possible that in the 21st century there are so many new clothes, so many new trends, but fashion garments have hardly innovated? We still dress in the same way, but the needs of the population have changed. Either because seniors are turning the population pyramid, or because people with disabilities are more present and demand designers and companies to take them into account. They should not be forgotten, they consume fashion, every day! What is missing?
In reality, all brands and designers have inclusive garments, but they are unaware of it. Accessibility and inclusivity are done unconsciously, depending on trends and seasons. If for example, a wide-leg trouser is in fashion, this makes it easier to pass my feet, to wear it with a prosthesis, or to control my urine bag
Designers are not aware of the effect of their choices, they don’t know what accessibility looks like in the garment, and they don’t know which audience it benefits. The needs of people with reduced mobility are different from the needs of people with sensory (sight, hearing, touch) or cognitive (mental, intellectual) limitations.
Fashion design is extremely adaptable. It includes many processes, pattern making, tailoring, materials, fastenings, colours, and embellishments. The possibilities of designing a garment are almost infinite and the decisions we make hugely influence the accessibility of the garment.
The challenge is to make fashion without the need to make an adaptive line for people with disabilities.
To do this, it is necessary to understand the needs of people with disabilities and establish a generic basis for the accessibility of clothing. The continuous study of my company Movingmood has taken years of work with different entities and companies to validate some parameters.
As a result, we defined nine functionalities to consider when designing inclusive fashion:
1) Usability: Clothes should be easy to put on and take off. The aim is to speed up the process of dressing and undressing, to do so without physical effort or stress.
2) Autonomy: It is essential to feel useful and increase our self-esteem. In general, we don’t like to ask for help, especially when it is a task we do every day.
3) Fastenings: this is the second most demanded need. We want to close and secure our garments ourselves.
4) Attractiveness: Accessibility is not opposed to aesthetics. We are looking for functionality and fashion.
5) Fitting: Do we think about different body shapes when we design? If the design can adapt to our body, we manage to improve the fitting and the look of the person wearing it.
6) Rubbing, friction and pressure: We must avoid all the irritations of the clothes on our skin, caused by seams, labels, rivets, wrinkles, etc. If we are not comfortable with the clothes we wear, we will not wear them.
7) Fabrics: Sensitivity and thermal comfort need to be considered. The types of fabrics, dyes, and finishes used in a garment directly influence skin irritation and body thermal control.
8) Restriction of movement: Clothes should not restrict our movements when carrying out daily activities, especially if we use support elements such as crutches or a wheelchair.
9) Safety: This is the consequence when we have covered all of the above.
Most accessibility solutions are familiar and simple to use, for example making trousers with elastic waistbands, or seams that do not rub against the skin, or considering colours suitable for people with colour blindness.
Applying accessibility is simple, all designers can do it.
The most efficient way is to incorporate accessibility from the beginning of the design process, working directly with the excluded communities, the people, is a fundamental part. This way we avoid later rectifications and accessibility adjustments, and we avoid something essential, making a specific clothing line for people with disabilities, with the associated costs that entails.
Committing to Inclusive Fashion has been proven to generate great value for companies and organisations: it brings competitiveness, innovation, increased revenue and customers, and improves brand image.
Considering the needs of people with disabilities multiplies by 4 the potential of our products, because inclusive design incorporates the largest possible number of people who can use a product or service, without the need to alter or modify it, without doubt a great advantage.
Are you ready for inclusion?
The future is accessible.
The future is sustainable.
The future is inclusive.
The new global trend is to make fewer but better-designed products.