Runway of Dreams: Cool Clothing for Kids of All Abilities!
Every parent just wants their children to be happy, to feel as though they fit in, to be comfortable in their own skin. But for some families this is more of a challenge than for others.
For some of these people, it’s a matter of not having enough money; beggars can’t be choosers and all that. For others, there simply isn’t the merchandise available. There can be any number of reasons.
Mindy Scheier from New Jersey in the US has three children, and she has been learning about what it feels like to fall into the second category. But she is putting her foot down and trying to do something about it.
One morning, a couple of years ago, Mindy’s son, Oliver (now ten years old) innocently asked if he could wear jeans to school that day.
However, because Oliver has muscular dystrophy (a muscle weakening condition), he needs to wear leg braces to be able to walk safely, and jeans don’t fit very well over them. Oliver would also struggle with fastening and unfastening the jeans.
But Mindy knows that Oliver is like any other boy his age and just wants to fit in. She was faced with a very difficult decision. On one hand, Oliver could safely walking into school as he normally does with his sweatpants and leg braces, but with no jeans. On the other hand, he could go to school in his jeans. However, it would mean that Oliver couldn’t wear his leg braces, but he would be able to hold his head high and look like all the other children.
Adaptive clothing for children who are differently-abled is available, but just aren’t very appealing to the children. Mindy explained that the clothing on offer wasn’t like the mainstream clothing their typical age group was wearing and was quite expensive to buy.
It was that moment that inspired Mindy to do something – to help Oliver and other families to overcome these clothing challenges, but in an affordable way.
And so, in 2013, Mindy launched a non-profit foundation dedicated to making adaptive versions of clothing for differently-abled children and young adults. This programme is called Runway of Dreams, and you can check out their website here.
But Mindy didn’t just want to sit back, she really wanted to help and make a difference. And so, she did her research.
Starting off with the local community, Runway of Dreams set out to find out if the clothing challenges that Mindy and Oliver faced were as common as they thought. It was then they realised that they had to look beyond their local community, look at the whole setup on a much larger scale.
So Mindy set up a survey on Facebook, asking participants about what types of disabilities they or their children had, and what kinds of clothing challenges they faced.
“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just in my little world,” Mindy said, “and we literally got answers from all around the world, pertaining to all different types of disabilities.”
The survey results showed that there are three main areas of struggle when it comes to clothing:
1) Fastenings, such as buttons, zippers and snaps;
2) Adjustability in waistbands and cuffs, and lengths of sleeves and trouser legs;
3) Alternative ways of dressing instead of just pulling something on over the head.
Using this feedback, Mindy created focus group samples in collaboration with a technical designer.
Since then, the Runway of Dreams team has met with numerous brands and manufacturers, as well as other potential partners and supporters. There have even been some meetings with some high-level apparel designers who are interested in the foundation’s mission of making fashion inclusive for everyone.
The biggest challenge that Mindy and her team has been facing is convincing people that there is, indeed, a market for this kind of clothing. The fashion designer explained that there are millions of children, just in the US, who have a physical disability. But that doesn’t mean that these children don’t want to be able to wear the same kinds of clothing that their friends can.
And not only is the market impressive, the customers are also very loyal. “When we find a garment that works for our children, we buy it in every colour [and] are willing to pay a higher price,” Mindy pointed out.
Runway of Dreams is growing and getting more and more attention as time rolls on. Mindy receives emails every day from people exclaiming how important a campaign she is running.
Manufacturers have been getting in touch with the programme, and because the ultimate aim is to have every company offer options for all abilities, there is no competition or exclusivity for Mindy to work with them.
“Our mission is so that this community can ‘fit in’ and feel better about themselves,” Mindy explained. “And, in this case, ‘fitting in’ is a good thing.
“Clothing can make the difference!”