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Stylist making disability-friendly clothing more accessible

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

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.

The biggest trends in menswear right now

A big trend in the luxury industry right now is that consumers are spending up on luxury experiences – not just high-end goods, such as watches and bags – so brands have to understand that their customers are travelling to new places, seeking new experiences and need clothing that is up to the task and relevant for their time and place.

Hermes

Hermes


Across the fashion capitals, in the beautifully lit windows of the boutiques on the most exclusive shopping streets, there is a new movement. Modern tailoring is being merchandised with sportswear items such as sneakers and technical knitwear to help redefine it as an appropriate choice to wear for experiences outside of the corporate world or that don’t require classic ceremonial wear. Suits designed with enhanced movement through clever fabrications and body-conscious silhouettes are incredible to try on – you feel active and sporty, although conscious that this sportiness requires time spent in the gym. But it also says something about an attitude of getting out there and enjoying new experiences. Having fun while wearing active, sports-inspired suiting doesn’t make sense when worn with a pair of leather-soled tasselled loafers.

Berluti

Berluti


This has led to the inevitable global trend for brands to create a luxe sneaker range, which has hit the suiting market. Every brand worth its salt now offers a sneaker (a concept already a couple of seasons old) but now it is considered plausible to pair a sneaker with tailored garments and not look like a university lecturer. Not only does this trend encourage activeness and embrace the notion of seeking an experience, it also makes sense when doing business in a modern city increasingly dominated by time pressure and short commutes by foot.

Emporio Armani

Emporio Armani


I saw the light last month. My boss Tim and I were preparing for a day’s business in New York during the worst snowstorm the city had seen in 28 years. I was wearing a tailored flannel blazer, cashmere knitwear and trouser combo and my “Zabriskie” boots from Saint Laurent; it was a particularly strong look for a hotel lobby. However, the meeting was two kilometres away, no taxis were on the road and there was a serious blizzard outside. I only had the Cuban boots with me so I had no choice.

Canali

Canali


This first instance of sport shoes being relevant as a modern tailoring solution hit me hard as I took a tumble on black ice. Tim, wearing appropriately sporty, stylish, rubber-soled boots, got through completely unscathed and looked back to see me buried in the snowdrift on the sidewalk. A not-so-stylish, or comfortable, moment as I sat through the day’s meetings with soaking trousers.
I will definitely not be encouraging men to wear sneakers in the boardroom with their classic suiting, as I love formal footwear and tradition too much for that. What I will be encouraging, though, is the addition of an excellent pair of sports-inspired shoes for those times when it is entirely appropriate and makes total sense to wear them: and yes, that can be with the right kind of suiting.

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