More and more, we’re seeing models with disabilities taking to the runway in New York, Paris and Milan. Of course this is a good thing, but the coverage doesn’t always speak to the larger issues at hand. And according to Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri, “While including models with disabilities is a great thing, its not really addressing their clothing issues.”
Camilleri, with her label IZ Adaptive, is working to ensure that people with disabilities have easy access to fashion-forward clothes without having to compromise comfort, specifically producing what is known as “adaptive clothing.” Most mainstream clothing is designed, cut and fit for a body that’s standing, while adaptive clothing has been designed, created and sewn for people who have clothing needs outside of what is commercially available.
In her work with IZ Adaptive, Camilleri has learned a lot about the challenges that people with disabilities face. “Until I started working with someone who was paralyzed and used a wheelchair, I was unaware of the unique clothing needs,” she tells me. “The biggest misconception is that people with disabilities do not have the same needs or wants as able-bodied people when it comes to fashion. Everyone wants to express themselves in their own way.”
Camilleri’s customers want to have the same options as everyone else, including leather jackets, jeans, dress shirts and more — pieces that are stylish but adaptive.
To fully serve people with disabilities, clothing brands need to have a complete understanding and really wrap their heads around how they can serve the disabled community better not just with their clothes, but by including them in the creative process, having them influence design, staging, everything.
“Until you start to learn the issues, you assume there are no issues and that people with disabilities can dress in the same clothing as those without disabilities,” Camilleri adds.
Camilleri’s dedication and commitment to helping people with mobility issues go one step further with the launch of her Acess10 campaign. The program will donate 10 per cent of total gross sales, including purchases from its 2015 fall collection, toward helping to increase accessibility and to purchasing mobility ramps across Canada. Sales for its Fashion IZ Freedom T-shirt also go toward increasing accessibility, with 100 per cent of all profits being donated to this campaign.
“We wanted a way to start giving back to our clients in a way that would serve them. We thought long and hard about how we could do this, and the ramps seemed like a great start and achievable goal,” Camilleri says.
IZ Adaptive label also has an awareness component, with Camilleri hoping that their efforts will give able-bodied folks the chance to gain understanding and perspective on what those with disabilities face.