Accessibility April 8, 2021
JAM the Label introduces functional & stylish fashion for disabled people
Two occupational therapists in Australia are setting an example for leading fashion brands with their company JAM the Label. Emma and Molly Rogers believe that clothing for disabled people can be both functional and stylish and they are out to change perceptions about disability in the fashion industry.
Emma Clegg and Molly Rogers realised the glaring lack of functional and stylish fashion for people with disabilities as students of occupational therapy. They were caring for two teenagers with cerebral palsy who use a wheelchair. Both the girls required the help of others to dress.
Emma and Molly looked high and low at local stores in Melbourne for clothing that was functional and stylish for young disabled people. They found nothing and this triggered the idea to make the leap from disability support workers to entrepreneurs. That’s how JAM the Label, a clothing brand that brings together functional and stylish elements for disabled people, was born.
The leap was not easy.
“We certainly felt out of depth in the fashion side of things in the beginning, as it was all totally new to us”, says Emma. “We connected with a company called A Fitting Connection which helps to connect fashion start-ups with pattern makers, manufacturers etc.” They realised that while adaptive clothing was not new, there was nothing that targeted teenagers and young adults.
Functional can be stylish
We felt well positioned to be the ones to do both functionality, due to our background as occupational therapists and fashion, because we ourselves are young consumers, so we understand what people around our age are looking for. We believe that people with disability should have the same opportunities to express themselves through what they wear as we do, not that they should have to compromise fashion for ease or functionality. – Emma Clegg, Co-Founder, JAM the Label
Initially Emma and Molly decided to design functional and stylish clothing for disabled children between the ages of eight to 18. This was later tweaked to disabled people between 15-35 years. They found that this category of people with disabilities was being totally missed out on.
“We began by creating a wheelchair friendly jacket, which is an adaptive item”, adds Emma. “This was born from our ever-changing weather in Melbourne. However, due to its design feature of having a shorter back – it is not appropriate for people who aren’t wheelchair users”
Disability & fashion industry
JAM calls itself an inclusive brand and its range embraces the principles of universal design. The pants, for instance, feature a drop crotch. “Whilst seated, the drop crotch allows for extra room for the pants to be pulled up so they’re not dropping down the back, and whilst standing, they are able to be worn as a drop crotch style pant”, explains Emma. Then there are tote bags with one long strap that be worn across the body and two extra shorter press stud straps that can be hung off wheelchair handles or pram handles.
The input of lived experiences of disabled people has gone into these designs. The website of JAM the Label has a suggestions page for comments and feedback. These suggestions have directly influenced the design of the company’s newest items.
Going ahead, the founders hope to hire disabled designers. At a recent photoshoot they brought on Jason Clymo, the well-known wheelchair using model as creative director to help control the narrative of those with disability on the set.
Emma and Molly are clear that JAM is not an adaptive label but an inclusive one. They hope to shape attitudes towards disability in the fashion industry and prevent this segregation by showing how simple it is to make the adjustments that will help promote fashion that is inclusive. After all, everyone wants to wear clothes are functional and stylish.
“We think that it’s easy for people to pop accessible features or inclusive items in the “too hard” basket”, says Emma. “Additionally, we find that people are still intimidated by the idea of inclusive fashion and potentially even feel that they’re not the right person to do it”.
The solution to this, they are convinced, lies in greater representation of disability in the fashion industry. e”The more people see people with disability represented, the more people with disability will be included in people’s planning and their thoughts when creating items. We hope that we, along with other inclusive brands, can lead by example to show that fashion can be functional but look really good too”.
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