With more size ranges, shapes, colors, and genders represented, diversity and inclusivity continue to gain speed in the fashion industry. However, there are few brands designing adaptive clothing to the one billion disabled people in the world today, and even fewer for the wheelchair-specific community. That is, until now.
Shown at Devonshire Square at London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2022, Faudma’s Fellowship brought adaptive fashion to the runway with the organization's first winner, Harriet Eccleston. As a wheelchair user herself, founder Faduma Farah is a woman with a disability who is focused on addressing the lack of choice for disabled people by sponsoring the creation of adaptive wear apparel through her organization.
“There’s been a lot more conversation about different sizes, different races, different ages within the fashion industry, and adaptive clothing has just been completely left behind and not talked about,” says Eccleston.
In partnership with Rebecca and Melissa Everett, former classmates of Eccleston and researchers on the lack of diversity in the fashion industry for disabled individuals, the designer took the problems raised in the research and came up with technical solutions. “I want every woman that I dress to be the most confident and powerful version of herself,” says Eccleston.
The fashion show, featuring six models who use a wheelchair, incorporated magnetic buttons, relocated pockets, breathable fabric, and hidden seams. “The garments in the collection were specifically created for each individual model and are available to stockists in any size range,” she tells Byrdie.
The actual collection includes seasonless, colorful wardrobe staples: A suit, shirts, trousers, a rain jacket with leg covering, a jumpsuit, a dress, and a tank top—all designed with function and style at the forefront. Standout pieces include a hot fuchsia suit with an adaptive-friendly waistband.
For sensory concerns, the designer invested in Tencel Modal for the fabric's environmentally-friendly and breathable components. “Breathable, crease-resistant, and ‘health fabrics’ were integral to ensure that the garments can keep the wearer comfortable and healthy,” Eccleston continues.
The designer understands that authenticity begins with access. “I want the wearer to feel like the best version of themselves,” she shares. “Our choice in what we wear is often the first indication the people around us understand about our character. This should not be any different for wheelchair users. I hope that through these garments the wearer is able to express themselves and wear the clothes that they love whilst not feeling limited or constricted.”
The show closed to a tremendous crowd and a heartfelt speech from Farah reminding the world that wheelchair users matter: “Did I have to be in a wheelchair so I can produce a line,” Farah starts. “I think that everybody should be able to dress and feel good. The shops, when you are doing the layouts, think about the person in the wheelchair. Let us be able to shop, just like everybody else. To the cab drivers, trust me, it’s very hard to get a cab. They tend to look at the wheelchair, not the person...Today, we opened a door. Hopefully there will be a lot of designers out there designing for the person in the wheelchair, we can do this—let’s do this!”
The visibility both Farah and Eccleston have created for the underrepresented disabled community will not go unnoticed. The duo hopes to inspire designers and the fashion community into awareness of the lack of options for the disabled and spark change. “We have been blown away by the response that the collection received after the catwalk show on Sunday and hope that this will start to spark more conversations within the industry,” says Eccleston.
Because here is the truth: We need clothing designed with chairs or paralysis in mind. Fashion empowers each of us to express our identity, and with diversity and inclusion trending at an all-time high, the disabled community cannot be left out of the conversation.