After a year and a half hiatus and a lot of worried customers, the adaptive clothing line IZ Adaptive, founded by Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri, will be relaunching in September.
IZ Adaptive, first launched in 2009, built a devoted following among wheelchair users by offering clothing that was both fashionable and designed to be easy to put on and fit right while seated. Though existing customers loved the clothes, the brand had challenges with marketing and scaling up its efforts, according to Camilleri.
“In the adaptive world, you end up selling directly to the consumer, so it makes scale very difficult,” says Camilleri. When IZ Adaptive started, she says, “there were absolutely no wholesale opportunities for me. I tried, but for retailers, it was just a category that nobody had ever heard of.”
Instead of wholesaling its clothes to retail chains, the business worked on slowly adding to its customer base, one by one. It built a loyal following, but the business model was costly and difficult to sustain. Camilleri says that when IZ Adaptive shut its doors in 2016, it was never supposed to be permanent, but rather a break to remodel the business for long term sustainability. “We really needed to stop and restructure and take a few steps back … we needed to take it to the next level, and we couldn’t do that in the model we were in,” she says. “Now with the relaunch, I’m able to use everything we learned from before, and so I have a really fantastic starting point.”
While IZ Adaptive will continue to offer many of its favorites — jeans, jackets and open back tees, among others — from its past collection, it is also expanding to include clothes designed for people with ambulatory disabilities. The line will still be designed in Canada, but in an effort to rein in costs and scale up production, manufacturing will now be moved offshore. In addition, IZ Adaptive has partnered with Zappos, a subsidiary of Amazon, making the brand available on one of the largest online retailers in the world.
IZ Adaptive’s relaunch comes as adaptive fashion is starting to make some headway into the mainstream market. Tommy Hilfiger and Target now have both adult and children’s adaptive clothing lines. Nike has a line of adaptive shoes called the FlyEase.
The business of adaptive clothing has traditionally had a bit of a stigma surrounding it — regarded as a medical product or just not very attractive, says Camilleri. But, “when major brands like Tommy Hilfiger or Nike are starting to enter into this arena, it’s kind of taking those barriers down … oh, the uncoolness of it,” she says. “When people finally do give [adaptive clothing a try], there’s no going back, because they realize that your jeans look like any other pair of jeans when they’re on, and they’re way more comfortable and practical.”
Camilleri’s latest collection starts with 55 pieces in men’s, women’s and gender-neutral styles — including T-shirts, jeans, suits, tops and jackets — priced from $25 for a T-shirt to $425 for a full suit. Zappos will carry most of the line and the full collection will be available directly through IZ Adaptive .