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Inclusive fashion industry: an opportunity for integration
The boom in creativity and innovation that characterised the fashion industry in the twentieth century brought fashion to the level of art. Film and the media did the rest, and fashion became a social and cultural phenomenon. In today’s world, when we dress we make a statement of who we are and the way we think.
In the twenty-first century, the fashion industry is so influential that it has become a powerful tool for the social integration of various groups, for example, people with functional diversity. Designing trendy clothes that meet the specific needs of those who wear them is one of the challenges the fashion industry is about to face in Spain. We still have a long way to go, but ‘inclusive fashion’ is the buzzword in our country, meaning clothes based on universal design and thus ideal for all kinds of people, irrespective of their special abilities or disabilities.
Awareness of people with special needs and their right to fashion is being raised in the fashion industry at the global level. It made an impact at the New York Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2015, where models with disabilities could be seen on the catwalk. In Spain, Navarra Fashion Week joined the trend in 2015, showing both disabled models and adaptive clothing.
More recently, Paralympic athletes Sara Andrés (Rio 2016) and Alberto Ávila (European U20 Champion in Sprinting) were models for Existence Research Program at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (MBFW) in Madrid, showing part of the firm’s futuristic collection, ‘Europa’. Also, the 4th urban fashion festival Madrid es Moda (13-21 February 2017) included a section on Fashion and Diversity, focusing on the challenges and progress in social integration in the fashion industry.
Comfort and style
One of the firms at Fashion and Diversity was Tdotex, a pioneer in the design of clothes for people with functional diversity. Since 2016, taking advantage of technological developments like the Internet of Things, this company has been offering ‘clothing that adapts to individual needs: high-waisted trousers at the back for wheel-chaired customers, buttonless shirts for men or women with impaired fine motor skills, clothes with geolocation systems, and so on,’ says CEO Javier Aragón.
It is not just about clothes that are easy to put on or take off, thus promoting independence and improving the quality of life for disabled people – Tdotex’s underlying philosophy. It is also about style, looks and comfort, for why do people with functional diversity have to sacrifice elegance? Like everyone else, they have the right to see their clothes in fashion shows and be part of the latest fashion trends.
According to Mr Aragón, inclusive fashion ‘gives everyone the chance to choose beyond personal circumstances, physical constitution or mobility.’ ‘Inclusive fashion,’ he adds, ‘is all about design, innovation, trends and industry. And it is a powerful social tool too. Getting dressed according to your personality boosts your self-esteem and makes you feel part of today’s society and its diversity.’
Differently-abled people do not have much of a choice when it comes to what to wear. They often end up wearing sweatpants, orthopaedic clothing or tailored outfits. Companies like Tdotex have emerged to change all this, contributing to the integration of this sector – which also make an interesting market segment with more than 3 million people with a certified disability.
Aragón believes inclusive fashion could grow on the basis of responsible consumerism. ‘Many of the fashion brands we know will end up offering this kind of clothing. With time, inclusive fashion will be just one more segment in the fashion industry, just like accessories or specialised footwear,’ he remarks.