When you have a disability, how can fashion be both stylish and functional?

Delving into the inner workings of Fashion’s Newest Frontier: The Disabled and the Displaced it’s quite easy to happen upon the anthropological aspects of fashion. According to experts in said field, Ted Polhemus and Lynn Procter, fashion can be described as adornment, of which there are two types: fashion and anti-fashion.

The definition of fashion and anti-fashion is as follows: ‘anti-fashion’ is fixed and changes little over time. It is different depending on the cultural or social group one is associated with or where one lives, but within that group or locality the style changes little. On the other hand ‘fashion’ is the exact opposite of anti-fashion. Fashion changes very quickly and is not affiliated with one group or area of the world. A few seasons ago, pioneer and innovator Chaitenya Razdan, teamed up with former Parsons Graduate, Lucy Jones to take a clothing collection for people in wheelchairs and produce something extraordinary.

Rethinking the basic premise

MagnaReady, is as a concept, the very definition of ‘anti-fashion’. The new sub-sector, known as ‘healthwear’ takes the tools and techniques (and of course trends) of fashion and cleverly seeks to apply them to the challenges created by illness and disability. ‘Healthwear’ is simply one small part of a larger movement, in which classically trained designers (and those they work with) are rethinking the basic premise, and promise, of fashion itself. Call it solution-based design.

What followed was shirts — polo, baseball, plus a zippered blouse — that allow for the insertion and removal of central lines and ports, as well as a collaboration with designer Lucy Jones on fingerless gloves made specifically for wheelchair users. (Generally, wheelchair users adapt bicycle or batting gloves for their purposes.)

Fashion, which was once a world defined by exclusivity — clothes for the very rich, or the very skinny; clothes for insiders, for people who knew where to shop — has, in recent years, undergone a democratic revolution and has since been applied to size, age, sexuality and religion. The industry has also opened its mind to wrestle with real-world issues like H.I.V./AIDS and breast cancer. Yet somehow as far as we appear to have come, focusing fashion on the disabled and the displaced has in many ways been the final frontier. It all seems so obvious that it’s hard not to wonder: What took fashion so long?