Approximately one million Americans live with Cerebral Palsy. This is a series of disorders emanating from the brain which inhibits a person’s ability to maintain posture and balance. The severity of the effects varies, and a 2010 CDC research shows that 58.9% of people living with the condition have normal mobility. Nonetheless, the condition does not affect the cognitive abilities of a person. Consequently, a person may end up feeling dejected and alienated by society especially since they may be unable to express themselves optimally, but fashion offers them a platform for self-expression.
Inclusion of Cerebral Palsy Fashion Designers
Community, support, and inclusion are important, which is why individuals living with CP should take advantage of the available cerebral palsy resources. With the growing calls for diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry, fashion designers with cerebral palsy now also have a platform to express their ideas and explore their fads and fancies. Already, brands such as Levi Strauss & Co. have launched an adaptive and functional clothing line. Other brands such as Tommy Adaptive, Open Style Lab, Target’s Cat, and Zappos are following suit and delving into this market segment that has been overlooked. With the increased focus on this fashion dimension, designers with cerebral palsy can get the much-needed spotlight to catapult their designs into the limelight.
The Overlooked Market Niche
Children and adults with cerebral palsy not only need functional and adaptive clothes that they can slip on without breaking a sweat, but they also yearn for the glamour that apparel accords a person. Some of the pioneering designs for people with disabilities focused on adaptability and functionality by incorporating essential elements such as low necklines, elastic waistbands, wrap-around flap tops, suspenders, and more to facilitate easy donning.
However, people with cerebral palsy have a higher life expectancy with some like Bernadette Rivard having lived up to 83 years. Hence, as people get older, the clothing selection needs to adopt decorative styles.
Embracing Fashion as A Service to The Community
Making apparel that is functional and adaptive as well as incorporating elements of style and glamour can be expensive. The extra costs result from the addition of thermal comfort, extra tactile properties, and the ability to remove humidity which is essential especially for people with limited mobility.
To cut production costs and avoid further alienating the disabled, fashion designers can consider designing garments from standard fabrics such as denim and using lycra or spandex to repurpose the low-cost material to improve adaptability. The perspective of fashion designers and brands should be people-centric to promote equity in the fashion industry.