Accessibility March 27, 2021
Mom & fashion designer Mindy Scheier is making fashion more inclusive for all
Fashion designer Mindy Scheier is the founder of Runway of Dreams, a non-profit organization that is working with top fashion brands to make adaptive clothing more accessible and fashionable for people with disabilities. The idea was triggered after Scheier’s son who has muscular dystrophy wanted to wear a pair of jeans just like his friends in school.
When her middle child, Oliver, told Mindy Scheier he wanted to wear jeans to school and not sweatpants, she was faced with a dilemma. Oliver has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, which causes him to struggle with everyday tasks, such as dressing himself. Rather than tell the then eight-year-old that he could not wear what his friends were wearing, Scheier stayed up half the night to alter a pair of jeans to accommodate Oliver’s leg braces. And that’s how Runway of Dreams Foundation was born.
The foundation was launched in 2014 with the stated goal of making adaptive clothing more accessible and fashionable for people with disabilities. This is a group that makes up 15% of the world population and yet gets overlooked by fashion brands. Runway of Dreams is changing that by collaborating with brands to develop trendy adaptive clothing styles, encourage students focusing on adaptive clothing through scholarships and create employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Creating an inclusive fashion movement
2020, which saw Gucci choose Down syndrome model Ellie Goldstein as the face of their Beauty campaign, is a landmark year, says Scheier.
We are definitely seeing a progression in many industries across the board including people with disabilities, which is very exciting. Given there are 60 million individuals in this country that have a disability, it is imperative that this shift happens. Featuring Ellie Goldstein in such a high profile way emphasizes that people come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities. There is still a lot of work to be done in terms of rebranding who people with disabilities are, but I definitely believe the mindset is changing. – Mindy Scheier, Founder, Runway of Dreams Foundation
Runway of Dreams first partnered with designer Tommy Hilfiger, making history with Tommy Adaptive. Leading up to that Scheier spent years meeting people of diverse disability types to truly understand what they were looking for. This was critical to shaping her approach.
“There is no way to fully grasp the everyday challenges of dressing for people with disabilities without spending time with this population directly”, said Scheier to Newz Hook in an interview done on email. “The modifications created were a direct result of the time we spent learning and listening”. She calls Tommy Hilfiger the perfect brand to begin the journey with. “The executives understood immediately that there was a distinct need and current gap in the industry. The realization that this was the socially responsible thing to do, as well as a business opportunity was clear, and a historic partnership was born in 2016”.
Apart from Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive, Runway of Dreams works with top brands like Zappos Adaptive, Target, Kohls, Seven Adaptive, Appaman Adaptive, and Stride Rite to name a few. Scheier and her team continue to conduct focus groups, meet with fashion innovators and leaders in technology to understand how to continually improve adaptive fashion. A large part of their time is dedicated to educating companies on the need for adaptive clothing. “We continue to collaborate with more and more adaptive brands to showcase our mission”, says Scheier.
Spreading the mission
The Runway of Dreams Foundation was recently in the news for a first of its kind drive in adaptive fashion show in Miami. drive in fashion show in Wynnewood where 43 children and adults with different disabilities walked the runway, many of them for the first time. The foundation has successfully held six such fashion shows exclusively featuring models with disabilities. For the last two years it has also kicked off the NYC Fashion Week. “The ability to create a show during the COVID pandemic was extraordinary”, says Scheier. “Our models always feel confident, empowered and fashionable and their participation ends up being one of their most fulfilling experiences. It underscores that clothing can make a difference and has a direct correlation to self-confidence”.
In 2019 Scheier launched Gamut Management, a company that represents people with disabilities to create a marketplace where businesses and industries can connect with the disabled community. Scheier calls it a natural offshoot. “It became more and more apparent that there needs to be more opportunity and authenticity for individuals with disabilities in these industries. We provide our members an opportunity to have a say in how brands market to them, create products for them, and represent them in pop culture”.
Clearly Scheier is determined to make the fashion and entertainment industry inclusive from the inside out.
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