The global market for adaptive clothing is huge and is estimated to surpass US $ 392.67 billion by 2026. Internationally the key players operating in the adaptive clothing market include Silvert’s Adaptive Clothing & Footwear; Izzy Camilleri;NBZ Apparel International;Able2Wear; Adaptions By Adrian; Professional fit Clothing;Adaptive Clothing Showroom;Creation Confort;Buck & Buck; and PVH Corp.
Not only this, many prominent clothing brands have also time and again adapted inclusivity and launched special adaptive clothing lines at varied points. For instance, in 2016, Van Heusen, launched shirt for men with adaptive technology, in which conventional buttons were replaced with magnetic closures. Furthermore, in 2016, Tommy Hilfiger, launched adaptive clothes for disabled children. However, when we look at the Indian apparel landscape, there are hardly a couple of brands making clothes for the elderly or for people with disabilities.
“The stigma associated with adaptive clothing is very big and that is why not many brands try to enter this zone.The idea of demarcating the clothing for the disabled or the people with special needs as an entirely different, special category of clothing is certainly not the right approach. Why call every other clothing beyond the range of adaptive clothing as normal and tag adaptive clothing as special? The process of making a piece of garment friendly for someone with special needs does not mean a huge shift in style, it just means getting little fixes so that they can comfortably wear it independently. Isn’t comfort an ingrained factor for every type of clothing?” Soumita Basu, Founder of Zyenika asks.
Soumita acknowledges with a sad heart that India even today does not promote the idea of heterogeneous identity when it comes to fashion. With an aim to give people with physical challenges, needs and disabilities freedom to wear what they desire, Soumita started her brand. Affected by disability, Soumita has closely felt the need to look for clothes that are easy to wear and this need inspired her to make it stylishly comfortable for many like her.
Making it count
Move Ability™ clothing just like Zyenika is an evolution of design principles and ideas, which Joe and Murielle Ikareth the Founders of the brand, continue to develop along with Joe’s design line ‘Joe Ikareth’, the idea being to adapt existing clothing lines to specific requirements.
Joe Ikareth is a designer who graduated from National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), in Delhi with the ‘Best design’ collection in 1996. He has since been designing clothes for his own eponymous label, costumes for dance companies, prototyping for other designers and creating uniforms for various corporate clients. Murielle Ikareth on the other hand, is French and has done her B.A. from Banaras Hindu University and MA in Psychotherapy. She ran the ‘Saaram Centre for Ayurveda and Arts’ in Kottayam, Kerala. She is a Creative Movement Therapist and is a member of CMTAI (Creative Movement Therapy Association of India).
“The motivation for our project Move Ability™, is based on our collective daily experience as parents of our 13 year old daughter, Tilotama, who has a partially paralysed right arm, amongst other physical issues. Murielle has been working on developing Tilotama’s movement range through creative movement therapy to help her increase her sense of confidence and be more independent and creative in her daily life. Understanding her body abilities through Creative Movement, Joe has developed clothes that allow her the ease of dressing and undressing and this creates a sense of independence for Tilotama. As no two differently abled people are the same – their body, movement and abilities are different. Using Creative Movement therapy, we have learned to work with them and create customised solutions according to their needs. Our customers are people with light-to-medium disabilities, both men and women, who have an interest in wardrobe reflecting who they are, both in terms of functionality and personal taste. We have customers who contact us and ask for customisation. At present it is a small and niche market,” Joe highlights.
“Normal functioning people should realise that people we call differently abled people are before all people, like anyone else. The way they dress will help in evolving the way we look at people who are different from us. Today, we can observe an increase in the number of people with movement difficulties. It can be a reduction of movement following an accident or an after stroke effect. It will be difficult to list them all because everyone has a different story. But we can say that generally speaking the way we look at people with special needs is changing and we have a better understanding of their challenges as well as their potential. By adding aesthetic value into their clothes, Move Ability™ normalises the experience of being differently-abled and interacting with the differently-abled,” he further adds.
Soumita today is looking to make her brand more inclusive and is in fact working on a new project to design adaptive innerwear for women with a disability and would be the first in India to do so. “The first aim of Zyenika is to offer comfort and make that comfort beautiful. Through adaptive clothes, I want people to be more independent, to be able to wear clothes without any assistance. Adaptive clothes will make their lives much easier in that aspect. Also, I am trying to keep some stocks ready so that I can give them an experience of shopping that is very similar to the one they would get when visiting a brand store,” Soumita says.