#WCIW: Mindy Scheier
Adaptive Fashionista. Innovator. Educator.
For most of her life Mindy Scheier wanted to become a fashion designer. After earning a BA in Fashion Design from the University of Vermont, she founded Future Fashionistas in 2009 to inspire young people in her native New Jersey to follow their interest in fashion and learn a few tricks of the trade.
Through day camps and classes, Future Fashionistas provided fashion skills training like design, patterning, and sewing. The program ended in 2013, however, when Scheier turned her attention to caring for her son, Oliver, born with Rigid Spine Syndrome, a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy with fewer than 100 known cases worldwide.
Dressing Oliver on a daily basis was a challenge. Though he could dress himself, he struggled with closures on most clothing — snaps, zippers, and buttons were impossible to tackle on his own. For years the solution was for to just wear sweatpants every day. They were easy to put on and take off, and had no closures.
But as Oliver grew older his clothing set him apart from other children at his school. At eight years old, Oliver came home and informed his mother that he had been “dressing disabled,” and insisted that he should be able to wear jeans and t-shirts to school, just like other children.
Mindy decided in that moment that Oliver was right: her son should be able to wear stylish, everyday clothing just like everyone else. The challenge was that, in ordinary jeans, Oliver would be unable to dress himself or go to the bathroom at school without assistance. Scheier knew she had to find a way. She began researching adaptive clothing and was appalled at what she found.
Adaptive clothing for handicapped children and adults was anything but stylish: purely functional, devoid of embellishment, and medicinal-looking. Desperate, Scheier turned to her fashion design background and maternity experience. Recalling the old rubber band trick used during pregnancy to adapt jean waistbands to expanding tummies, Mindy began altering Oliver’s jeans.
As she worked, Scheier realized that jeans were not enough. As Oliver grew, he would need shirts, jackets, suits, etc. She also understood that Oliver was not alone in his desire to wear fashionable clothes. Other differently-abled children and adults must be feeling the same way and must be just as disappointed in the offerings available to them.
So, after finishing several pairs of jeans, Mindy began to experiment with other types of clothing. She interviewed people with various types of disabilities, and even recalled during a recent TED Talk, that she chased down people in wheelchairs to ask them about their clothing needs and wants. The more she learned, the more refined her designs became. She created easy, magnetic closures and discrete slits and openings to accommodate a multitude of disabilities. The only thing missing was mass distribution in the fashion market.
In 2013 Scheier founded Runway of Dreams, an organization to educate, engage, and promote adaptive clothing in designer’s clothing collections and stores across the globe. In 2016, Runway of Dreams had its first major breakthrough. Tommy Hilfiger designed a 22-piece collection of adaptive children’s clothing that was produced for his Spring 2016 line. The goal is for every designer to eventually include adaptable clothing in their collections. Until then, Mindy Scheier and Runway of dreams will continue their mission. For her role as an adaptable fashionista, her clothing innovations, and her fight to educate the industry, Mindy Scheier is this weeks #WCIW.
To learn more about Runway for Dreams and how you can contribute, visit www.runwayofdreams.org.