“One in five people in the world identifies as having a disability. Most businesses largely overlook this untapped market—particularly the fashion industry, as there are more clothing lines for dogs than there are for people with disabilities.” – Christina Mallon-Michalove
Clothing is both a medium for self-expression and a tool for functionality. It has the power to uplift or constrain, build self-esteem, open doors or help the wearer gain confidence, skills and even employment.
Experts agree that there is still a lack of accessible clothing or wearable solutions on the market. Accessible clothing creators say that they often have difficulty finding spaces to apply universal, interdisciplinary design methods and network with people with disabilities.
One collaborative group, Open Style Lab, (OSL) has recently risen to the challenge of designing fashionable solutions for unique dressing challenges. OSL is a non-profit organization that is committed to making style accessible to everyone, regardless of their cognitive and physical abilities. The group’s mission is to increase awareness about the importance of clothing accessibility, as well as to develop and share knowledge, designs and technologies that will increase the availability of accessible clothing.
OSL’s design philosophy is to work collaboratively with people with disabilities to make stylish wearables that meld technology and functionality with aesthetics. The organization’s goal is to empower the wearer through independent dressing that doesn’t come with limits.
Led by board member Christina Mallon-Michalove, designers, engineers and occupational therapists work alongside people with disabilities, and to date have created more than 100 pieces—everything from wearable technology to adaptive raincoats.
Most recently, Christina and her team have collaborated with award-winning architecture and design studio Eray/Carbajo to build the first standard prototypes of inclusive body forms for the fashion industry. Each sustainable wooden form allows for different postures and movements that mimic wheelchair users, arm and leg amputees, and individuals with curvature in their upper back. Creating different body types with flexible motion and assembly is key to practical implementation in stores and exhibitions.
Known as ADA l:0, the inclusive body forms are a call to action to make retail a more inclusive place for differently abled individuals. The OSL and Eray/Carbajo team promise future iterations that will strive to capture a wider range of positions and motions.
About Eray/Carbajo (E/C)
Eray/Carbajo is a New York- and Istanbul-based team of architects and designers who passionately creates with purpose. With over twenty international awards in diverse typologies such as architecture, planning, interior and product design, they build innovative pieces that enhance experiences, elevate the everyday, and address urban, social and environmental problems.
About Open Style Lab (OSL)
OSL is a recipient of 2019 National Design Awards, awarded by Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.ϖ