Brands and research labs tackle ability-focused fashion initiatives

Inclusivity isn’t just an inspiring fad; it’s a critical component for cross-industry brands to address in their product designs, service offerings, and marketing endeavors. Mainstream and niche brands are adopting adaptive designs to support consumers’ medical challenges, and indeed, the global adaptive fashion market is expected to hit $349.9 billion by 2023. Below are a few brands and programs that are concepting innovative initiatives around inclusivity as it relates to clothing and accessories.


Aerie’s new Abilitee adaptive clothing supports a variety of medical devices such as insulin pump bags, catheter clips, and ostomy covers. Consumers were thrilled that this mainstream brand (which has long been a pioneer for body positivity and inclusivity) is championing diverse lifestyles, with one Tweeting, “This is MAJOR! I’ve never been so impressed by a brand. [Aerie] is not just saying they care about accessibility or using disabled models, they are actually selling solutions for us.” This is a great example of a brand blending fashion and function to better serve society.


In partnership with NYU Langone Medical Center’s Initiative for Women with Disabilities, MIT’s Open Style Lab designed a Hack-Ability kit. Featuring easy-to-use products and instructional videos, this box helps disabled consumers modify their apparel to make it more convenient. This affordable kit does much more than allow users to alter their clothing: it provides users a feeling of independence and allows them to learn new skills that will increase their confidence.


The Innovation, Health & Design Lab at the University of Delaware is at the forefront of wearable design research. The lab works with students to create products for people with disabilities and sports injuries, as well as wearables for people with certain medical conditions. One recently successful collection from the class addresses the differences in body shape of those with Down syndrome. UD Director of Innovation Martha Hall believes that her work with fashion wearables has the potential to be nationally renowned and could “create a really exciting change in the healthcare landscape.”