How often have you wanted to dress like/look like/feel like “everyone else”? For Mindy Scheier, this reality hit home when her son came home from school asking to wear jeans, and she knew that due to his rare form of muscular dystrophy, she would either have to send him to school in pants that he would literally be stuck in all day without asking for help or have to be the mom who said, “No, this opportunity to feel included isn’t going to work for you.” Mindy Scheier decided to do something to change the reality for her son and so many other differently abled children by starting Runway of Dreams, adapting clothing for children, teens and adults who had previously been unable to enjoy the styles and fashions that their friends were wearing. Our own Sydney Lieberman is interning for Mindy this summer and just knew that we had to share this amazing and inspirational story:
Where did you start your career?
I have always worked in the fashion industry. I worked for the INC collection for department stores, Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as cofounding Future Fashionistas.
What is Runway of Dreams?
Runway of Dreams is a nonprofit organization working with the fashion industry to adapt mainstream clothing for the differently abled community. Partnering with top brands and designers, RoD uses wearable technology to modify brand-name apparel, making fashion accessible for all.
What was your inspiration?
I founded the company in 2013. My son, Oliver, was born with a very rare form of muscular dystrophy. He wanted to wear the same brands and clothing items his peers were wearing, but was unable to find mainstream clothing that he could fit over his leg braces as well as button or zipper due to his low muscle tone. A fashion designer by trade, I began modifying clothes for Oliver and quickly realized other parents who don’t have fashion backgrounds must be facing similar, if not more difficult, challenges. After research and case studies with people with different abilities and their families, I developed wearable technology and innovative designs that can be easily integrated into mainstream clothing. And that is where Runway of Dreams came from.
What are the challenges with setting up a not-for-profit?
The challenges are that it is a very long process and one that is very specific to meeting criteria proscribed by the government! But it was a process that was worth it to get to where we are today!
You recently held your first big event. How was it?
On June 9th, we held our first RoD Gala and Fashion Show! It was a huge success, and we can’t wait for our next one!!
Who is the coolest person you have met through RoD?
The coolest people that I have met are those that are a part of the differently abled population as every story is completely unique and tremendously inspiring!
Tell us about your collab with Tommy Hilfiger?
We approached Tommy Hilfiger with this initiative. Tommy was inspired by the RoD mission and decided to work with the organization to create an adaptive version of its children’s line.
To see the full collection, click [here].
The fashion industry is known to be progressive. For example, Rebekah Marine, who was born without a forearm, recently walked in NY Fashion Week and was featured in several magazines. Can you elaborate on the disparity between inclusion in the industry and the exclusion, up until now, of adaptable clothing?
Nearly one in five people in the US has a disability. One in twenty children from ages five to 18 have a disability. There are very limited options for adaptive clothing. Many parents and caregivers of differently abled people alter clothing themselves, which requires great time, money and effort. The adaptive clothing that is available for sale is often difficult to find, unstylish, and far removed from mainstream fashion. Adaptive clothing is designed for people with different abilities to help them dress and undress with greater ease. Adaptive clothing can empower a person with a disability to self-dress, as well as help a caregiver who dresses a differently-abled person.
Have you encountered any struggles with your business especially with respect to difficult clothing items? (Are there certain things that we may not think of as difficult that are very difficult to adapt/challenging for the disabled community to wear?)
The greatest challenge is finding or developing modifications that can help most. Because we are not a custom company, it’s about finding the balance between creating something specific to a disability versus finding something that can help as many people as possible.
What type of feedback have you gotten about Runway of Dreams and its goals?
The fashion industry has made great strides towards becoming more diverse and inclusive, as seen with the success of model Jillian Mercado and others appearing in campaigns, ads and runway shows featuring those with diverse backgrounds and abilities.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. This is a never-served population as it relates to having clothing options so to have a collection that was specifically developed for the differently abled population, gives hopes that a change is coming to the industry.
What are your dreams for Runway of Dreams?
The dream for RoD is to make fashion inclusive, by providing people of all abilities the opportunity to wear the clothing they want. My dream is that someday that there is a mandate that a certain percentage of all clothing line has to be adaptive. No different from buildings having to have handicap bathrooms or anything of that sort!
What’s next for RoD?
The Runway of Dreams mission is to get mass retailers to adapt their existing lines with our modifications. We do not intend to stop with kids and young adults as our modifications (such as magnetic closures) can be and should be applied to any garment! Runway of Dreams will push until all ages and abilities are recognized by the Fashion industry! Help us spread the word about adapting mainstream clothing by sharing our work on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, anywhere!
Be sure to share this story and help spread the word about Runway of Dreams and the incredible Mindy Scheier.