On March 27, Zappos Adaptive and the Runway of Dreams Foundation hosted an adaptive fashion show to highlight the exciting present and future of adaptive fashion. Hundreds of fashion aficionados, industry insiders and members of the disability community lined an outdoor Las Vegas runway, while thousands more watched a livestream online. The event was the collaboration’s first high-profile effort to open a dialogue about fashion designed for customers with disabilities.
“Disability doesn’t change how you want to present yourself to the world,” says Mindy Scheier, founder of the Runway of Dreams Foundation. “The idea is simple but has gone largely unrecognized by the fashion industry. It’s time for brands and designers to embrace people with disabilities as an important part of our culture.”
Since 2014, the Runway of Dreams Foundation has engaged the disability community to better understand its diverse needs and create a call to action for the fashion industry to listen and use it as a resource for developing stylish, adaptable pieces that work for all bodies. Zappos launched its adaptive line in late 2017 to provide disabled customers and their families with clothing, shoes and accessories designed to make their lives easier.
As the warm spring sun set, one by one, 30 models with all types of disabilities took to the catwalk and demonstrated the power of clothing that works for them and their unique needs. In three acts, the models sported looks from adaptive brands that showcased daywear, active wear and more glamorous wear for a night out on the town. Actor RJ Mitte served as the celebrity host of the event. Mitte, who has cerebral palsy and has appeared in major campaigns for Gap, walked the runway for fashion elite Vivian Westwood.
“Disability or not, every type of body needs clothes that fit comfortably and make you feel good,” says Mitte, adding that the fashion industry often “forgets about flexibility and makes clothing for models. I don’t need things that work for the runway. It’s about functionality and having things available that I actually want to wear.”
As an online retailer with revenues in the billions, Zappos has influence in communicating what it is looking to sell and what customers are looking to buy. This gives it leverage with big established brands and also allows it to greatly impact some of the smaller brands seeking to innovate in the adaptive marketplace.
“What we need is traction,” says Mitte. “And Runway of Dreams and Zappos Adaptive have done something that isn’t only going to impact the fashion world but will have benefit in making people feel and look good.”
Zappos Adaptive Origins
Zappos’ commitment to adaptive fashion all started with one grandmother’s phone call to customer service. The grandmother was struggling to find no-lace shoes that allowed her autistic grandson to put his shoes on by himself. Noting that situations like hers are common, Zappos set out to create adaptive shoes and clothing. It immersed its employees in research and education, and engaged in conversations with people who have all types of disabilities. The result is a dedicated hub for sourced products that are functional, fashionable and meet all types of needs.