Stephanie Thomas was shopping in Target in Virginia Beach when she noticed a trendy, fully functional trench coat – the only catch being, it was for a dog. Upon realising that there were in fact more clothing options for pets, than for people with disabilities, Thomas began lobbying for proper representation in the fashion industry for those with physical disabilities.
With over 20 years experience, Thomas’ campaign is a personal one. Living with non-severe physical impairments for all her life, she was born with congenital disabilities on her right hand and feet and as such, has lived through the frustration of shopping for accessible clothing.
In 2006, the fight began in full force when the packed up her clothes and wore pyjamas for 365 days. During this year, Thomas, who was working as a morning drive radio personality, spread her message through flyers, keynote speeches, and her radio show, every single day.
Soon enough the campaign completely changed the trajectory of her career; motivating her to leave the radio industry and go back to school for a second degree.
She emerged, a graduate of fashion journalism and styling and used these skills to begin cur8able – a website devoted to providing fashion for people with disabilities. Thomas curates the clothing options based on her three guiding principals of accessibility (easy to put on and remove), medical functionality and style.
Photo: Paralympian Katy Sullivan, styled by Stephanie Thomas, wearing clothing from MagnaReady
The website allows people with disabilities to find stylish and accessible fashion options, with tools and tips on where to shop. However, the story doesn’t stop there. Thomas is an advocate for inclusivity and as such, provides ways for members of the fashion industry to “catch up” to the growing need to focus on members of the community, who are often overlooked.
Thomas wants designers, shop assistants, sales people and marketing teams to acknowledge that people with disabilities are as viable as every other customer and that their needs cannot be met, if they are not considered in the first place. Secondly she’s asking for the the industry to listen to customers with disabilities, “like other fashion customers, those with disabilities are diverse and have a variety of needs”. Finally, Thomas wants sales assistants to be well-versed in helping customers find clothing, giving them the same attention to detail as every other customer.
“The goal of cur8able is to create images that inspire and empower” says Thomas, adding that it’s important to keep in mind “what you would want your closet and your life to look like, if something were to happen to you – this is what motivates me”.
Thomas is urging those inspired by her website to push for inclusivity in the fashion industry and aid in expanding the market for disability-friendly clothing with a conscious.