The new adaptive apparel market: fashionable and accessible
More retailers are recognizing the necessity to offer more inclusive adaptive clothing that is accessible, medically safe and fashionable.
Amid the growing conversations surrounding diversity in the fashion industry, inclusive marketing strategies are no longer enough and retailer product offerings need to cater to a wider range of consumers.
While efforts are increasing to design for those with disabilities, this billion-dollar market remains largely untapped. Read on to find out who is already investing and factors to consider upon entering this market.
Reach out to an EDITED retail specialist to find out what analysis reports retailers such as Zara, Puma and Marni take into their weekly meetings.
The growing market
According to Coherent Market Insights, the global market for adaptive clothing is expected to increase from $278.9 billion in 2017 to nearly $400 billion by 2026. Interest in adaptive clothing also piqued in 2019 – with searches increasing by 80% based on data from Lyst. With 2020 witnessing a newfound awareness for inclusivity in the industry as well as consumer mindsets shifting towards social good, now is the time to act as consumers place their brand loyalty with those that support their values.
While the need for medical input has been a barrier to entry for many, several retailers, most notably Tommy Hilfiger, have recognized the growing demand for more inclusive designs in the industry that are accessible, medically safe and fashionable – pillars based upon the Disability Fashion Styling System: Accessible, Smart, Fashionable™.
Design details to consider
Silhouettes will need to be cut differently to accommodate those in a wheelchair. Remove thick seams and back pockets on trousers (which can cause sores) and lower pockets on the front.
Magnetic & velcro fastenings
Feature these details on shirting and bottoms to create ease when dressing, while their hidden nature helps maintains a stylish look.
Hidden pull loops
Feature on clothing to help individuals pull garments on and off, as well as easily adjusted throughout the day.
Tagless & seamless fabrics
For those with sensory issues and sensitive skin, tags and seams can be a huge irritant. Removing these from garments is a simple way to make your assortment more inclusive.
Adjustable & elasticated waistlines
Opt for elasticated waistlines over buttons, zippers and drawstring fastenings for an easier and more comfortable style.
Wider neck & arm holes
Relaxed silhouettes with wider cuts can be easier for those with limited mobility to get on and off.
If you’re thinking about introducing adaptive designs to your assortment, make sure you conduct customer research and expert/community focus groups in order to understand the market properly and specific medical needs. For more information check out the Disabled Living Foundation.
Which retailers are investing?
Market leader: Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive
Tommy Hilfiger in the US has a much wider offering with over six times as many products in stock compared to in the UK. 76% of the US adaptive line is advertised as discounted compared to 65% of its standard assortment. In the UK, just one adaptive product is on promotion compared to 50% of its standard assortment.
Adaptive range average prices are lower than the standard assortment. The average price for adaptive outerwear is $182.23/£103.33 vs. $231.84/£236.73 for standard. Fabric choice comes into play here with the adaptive outerwear made out of mainly technical fabrics compared to leathers and shearling, which dominated the exit prices for standard designs.
The category landing page is user-friendly, with consumers able to shop by solution including ‘easy closures’, ‘ease of movement’ and ‘seated wear.’ Customers can also shop by feature which includes details such as open necklines, magnetic buttons and adjustable waists among others.
The retailer is set to launch its latest adaptive collection in summer 2020. It currently features ‘coming soon’ products on its website, which include swim shorts and printed shirts for menswear, as well as a trench coat, printed midi dresses and joggers for womenswear.
The US retailer stocks an extensive range of adaptive clothing brands across mens, womens and childrenswear. Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive is its top stocked brand with 130 products currently in stock, followed by Kizik and IZ Adaptive with 41 and 25 products, respectively.
This past January, the retailer launched a collection with Abilitee Adaptive Wear and Slick Chicks, featuring a range of accessories and underwear for customers with disabilities and medical needs. The range includes insulin pump belts, cath clips, ostomy covers, as well as underwear featuring side fasteners.
Seasalt’s Easy On range
The UK retailer’s Easy On range includes subtle features designed to make dressing easier for those that find it difficult. It is focused on providing its signature style that customers love with helpful design twists such as hidden pull loops, larger arm holes, magnetic fastenings and elasticated waistbands.
Nike FlyEase range
The easy-entry footwear system is designed to ‘expand access and unlock benefits for all athletes.’ FlyEase the sneakers must meet at least two of the three design criteria including: easy to open and close; easy to get in and out of; and adjustability that accommodates different foot shapes and sizes.
Brands to know
Founded in 2018, the UK brand’s name draws on the Japanese philosophy of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer, tapping into the idea of celebrating uniqueness and individualism. Etailer SilkFred currently stocks 13 products with prices ranging from £24 – £75. The brand also features image descriptions on its Instagram posts to help followers who are blind or partially sighted.
The London-based lingerie brand was founded with the aim of making bras more inclusive and easier to put on. Its focus is on front-fastening bras featuring EZ magnetic closures made in soft, breathable fabrics with no scratchy lace. It ultimately hopes to re-define lingerie for all women, without compromising on style for functionality. The bras retail at £48, while matching briefs retail at £12 and £15.
Launched in 2019, the US brand focuses on wheelchair attachable accessories. Its assortment includes design-led bags and purses, including ‘active’ designs for wheelchair ‘back-splash’ in the rain, as well as cup holders. The brand also features image descriptions on its Instagram posts to help followers who are blind or partially sighted.
Social good: Runway of Dreams Foundation
The pandemic has seen retailers and consumers rally together to support charities and those in need. The trend for social good will continue post-COVID with higher expectations for retailers to support charities.
The Runway Dreams Foundation is a non-profit organization that works towards making adaptive apparel as common as petite or plus size, on the basis that ‘clothing is a basic human need.’ The foundation teamed up with Zappos Adaptive in 2019 to host a revolutionary fashion show that brought together 2,000 fashion leaders and innovators to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the industry.
Think about the store experience
As stores in the UK reopened on June 15th, achieving pre-pandemic footfall numbers will be a top priority for retailers. While store layouts will be different due to social distancing measures, make sure you are factoring in plans for your customers with disabilities in order to make them feel confident and safe returning to stores in their new format – particularly as many may have been self-isolating for a longer duration.
In September 2019, Marks & Spencer was praised for introducing sunflower lanyards to all its stores to help staff recognize and assist customers with hidden disabilities.
Dates to be aware of
Throughout Jul: Disability Pride Month
Sep 23rd: International Day of Sign Languages
Oct 6th: World Cerebral Palsy Day
Oct 8th: World Sight Day
Dec 3rd: International Day of Persons With Disabilities
Jan 4th: World Braille Day
Mar 1st: International Wheelchair Day
Mar 1st: Zero Discrimination Day
Mar 3rd: World Hearing Day
Mar 21st: World Down Syndrome Day
Through Apr: National Autism Awareness Month
Apr 2nd: World Autism Day
Apr 19th – 25th: MS Awareness Week
May 3rd – 9th: Deaf Awareness Week
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