Diversability

Diversability is an award-winning movement to rebrand disability through the power of community.

Diversability is an award-winning movement to rebrand disability through the power of community.

Meet Mindy Scheier, founder of Runway of Dreams, leading the charge for adaptive clothing offerings in the mainstream fashion world

Mindy Scheier is leading Runway of Dreams on it’s mission to ensure all people, regardless of ability, have clothing options that permit independent dressing and fashionable choices. This passion began at home for Mindy with her son Oliver, when he, at age 8, wanted to wear the same clothing as his peers, but his muscular dystrophy was preventing him from being able to fasten buttons and zippers.

Mindy Scheier, Founder of Runway of Dreams (photo credit: Richard Corman)

Mindy Scheier, Founder of Runway of Dreams (photo credit: Richard Corman)

 

Fast forward three years later, Mindy and the team of Runway of Dreams have launched their collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger, the first ever collaboration bringing adaptive mainstream clothing directly to consumers. The collection comprises 22 pieces available in children’s sizes for boys and girls—and the pieces cost the same as Tommy Hilfiger’s existing children’s line. This collaboration is a huge step forward and is the first of many future Runway of Dreams initiatives to bring adaptive clothing to the market and make fashion truly inclusive.

Diversability’s Alisa Zipursky caught up with Mindy to talk about this exciting time for Runway of Dreams.

Alisa: On behalf of Diversability, Congratulations! Your partnership with Tommy Hilfiger seems incredibly exciting.

Mindy: It is incredibly exciting but it takes a village and I feel very fortunate to have the support and outreach that we have had over the past week because it just only reiterates the exact reason why we are doing what we are doing.

Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive Clothing (photo credit: Richard Corman)

Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive Clothing (photo credit: Richard Corman)

Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive Clothing (photo credit: Richard Corman)

Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive Clothing (photo credit: Richard Corman)

Alisa: We at Diversability believe in the power of positive representation for people who are differently-abled in society and would love to hear about what you think the role of clothing plays in terms of how people are viewed in society.

Mindy: The first one being that the simple notion of independent dressing and having that ability to do something that seems very second-nature to most, but certainly not for the differently-abled community, directly correlates with your self esteem and confidence.  The second being that I know when I get dressed in the morning certain outfits make me feel great and put a little spring in my step for the rest of the day, if you don’t have that ability to have options in your clothing whether that is the notion of being self-dressed or having to be dressed, that simple feeling of feeling good about how you look really has a direct effect on your confidence. So we at Runway of Dreams strongly feel that clothing is a critical part of your confidence-building.

Alisa: Absolutely. Where do you see the greatest opportunity for inclusion for people who are differently-abled within the fashion industry? I know that you have experience from both founding the organization as well as of course the work you’re doing with Runway of Dreams now.

Mindy: What an amazing time that we are about to live through. That in this day and age to have a market that has yet to be tapped by an industry is almost mind-blowing. And that’s the reality of this. The last census report I read said that almost 73 million people in the United States alone that have a disability have not been serviced by the fashion industry. How amazing is it that we are on the brink of complete inclusion by an industry? What an incredible thing we are all about to be a part of.

Alisa: What is your vision for what that potential could look like?

Mindy: I think one of the really interesting parts of the differently-abled community is that it knows no age or socioeconomic background. The vision of Runway of Dreams is that there should be adaptive versions of clothing for everybody, no matter what your budget is, no matter your age, no different than the fact that we have petite departments and plus size departments.  We even have departments for dog clothes and we have nothing for the differently-abled community.

[Alisa giggles at the mention of the dog clothing]

Your response [the laughter], I love, because that’s usually the response I get when I put it into that perspective, that we have clothing departments for dogs and cats but we don’t have it for this population is laughable.

Alisa: I completely agree with you. I’m really interested to hear about what some of the larger challenges Runway of Dreams has had to face in terms of having to bring this very important message to the mainstream fashion industry.

Mindy: I would say that the largest challenge was educating the industry on 1. the enormity of this demographic and 2. dispelling this notion that if you are disabled you do not care about how you look. And further is the notion that people [who are differently-abled] are not willing to spend money on clothes. Which both are so vastly false.

Alisa:   What is your dream for the future of clothing and fashion and what do you think it will take to get there?

Mindy: My dream is for everyone to have clothing choices no matter what their ability is. My dream is that someday there’s a notion that a certain percentage of every clothing line out there has to be adaptive, no different than every building has to have wheelchair accessible ramps and accommodations like that, I hope that that is the movement within the industry that it just becomes part of the new normal.

Alisa: Do you have a sense of what it will take to get us there?

Mindy: The good news is I have a really big mouth. So until it happens, I promise I will work day and night to get there. And the support of the community is really critical.  Together we need to show that we are an important demographic that needs to be included in this industry. We are not going to stop until it happens.

Alisa: That’s great to hear. We like to ask all the people we interview, “What does Diversabilty mean to you?”

Mindy: Diversability, to me, is synergistic with ‘differently-abled’, which is how I refer to my son. He is very abled, he just has different abilities than others, but diversability to me is incredibly synergistic to that notion that everybody has their own ability, it’s just diverse like everything else in our world.

Alisa: How can our readers get involved in Runway of Dreams if they’d like to?

Mindy: First of all, I would absolutely love that. We have gotten as far as we’ve gotten because of the community. I only knew what I knew from my world with Oliver. So everything that has developed with our modifications et cetera has come from the community. I would absolutely love your readers certainly reach out to us directly at info@runwayofdreams.org and let us know how we are doing, ideas they have, if they’d like to get involved. This takes an army and we welcome everyone to be a part of it. And certainly check out the collection at Tommy Hilfiger.com.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

To learn more about Mindy and Runway of Dreams click here