Mindy Scheier – founder of Runway of Dreams – joins Mia on episode 60 of Shit We Don’t Talk About. Mindy and Mia chat about the need to make the fashion and design industry more inclusive and in tune with the need for adaptive clothing design. Getting dressed independently can be a major challenge for people with disabilities. Mindy is on a mission to address this challenge and to make the fashion industry stand up, take notice, and take action in this arena. So far, Mindy is off to a rousing start!
Mindy is a fashion designer and the mom of a son with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. Oliver (Mindy’s son) struggles to get dressed independently in the morning, so Mindy defaulted to sweatpants until Oliver was 8 years old, when he declared that he wanted to wear jeans like the other kids.
As it turns out, not being able to wear what you want to wear can have a negative impact on confidence, self-esteem, and self-image.
Mindy took her background in fashion and set out to address this important problem that definitely falls into the realm of shit we don’t talk about nearly enough.
In 2016 Mindy partnered with Tommy Hilfiger to create the Tommy Adaptive line of clothing designed to meet the needs of those with physical challenges. This opened the floodgates to the industry so other mainstream brands could address adaptive design issues.
Mindy also launched Gamut Management in 2019, an agency representing people with disabilities.
Mindy knew that while her personal experience with Oliver was important and impactful, she needed data that showed that this was a MUCH larger problem than anyone had acknowledged before. When presented with the stark reality of the sheer size of the adaptive design market, brands found it hard to resist what became a great business opportunity in service of a great cause.
A common criticism of the fashion industry is, “How important is this, really?” When addressing accessibility and adaptive design issues in clothing, the fashion industry can respond to this criticism by addressing a real human need to feel capable, competent, and confident.
In the end, almost all of us are going to face challenges of this kind as we age. Adaptive design in fashion is important well beyond just the population of people with disabilities.
Disabled people often struggle with isolation and a lack of understanding. Without living their experience, it is almost impossible for an able-bodied person to identify with a disabled person in a meaningful way. When the fashion industry – front and center in western media and advertising – takes steps to have the disabled population included and represented in images, we can make progress toward addressing that misunderstanding and isolation. Normalizing disability is a big part of what needs to be done here.
Mindy is not only working with major fashion brands but smaller brands as well. Adaptive and inclusive fashion and design aren’t only for huge corporations. Even smaller designers can get involved in addressing this issue.
About Mindy Scheier
CEO & Founder of Runway of Dreams and Gamut Management
Before starting the Runway of Dreams Foundation in 2014, Mindy Scheier spent 20 years working in fashion on the design team for the INC collection and as a stylist for Saks Fifth Avenue. Mindy was inspired to start Runway of Dreams after her son Oliver, who has Muscular Dystrophy, dreamed of wearing jeans like everyone else. After using her design skills to adapt a pair that met his needs and increased his confidence, she went on to conduct extensive research to develop modifications that would meet the needs of the largest minority in our world- people with disabilities. Following its launch, Runway of Dreams partnered with Tommy Hilfiger on the first mainstream adaptive clothing line for kids and continues to work with many mainstream brands such as Kohl’s, Target, JCPenny, and Zappos. Founded on the basis that clothing is a basic human need, Runway of Dreams develops, delivers, and supports initiatives to broaden the reach of mainstream adaptive clothing and promote people with disabilities in the fashion industry.
Due to the overwhelming amount of requests Mindy received at Runway of Dreams from a multitude of brands and industries for connection to PWDs, in 2019, Mindy created Gamut Talent Management to represent people with disabilities and create a marketplace where businesses and industries can connect to this target audience. Gamut is rebranding the way PWDs are viewed, marketed to and represented in the mainstream world. The continued support of the mission of Runway of Dreams will always be a component of Gamut, as the company’s 501c3 partner.
Mindy has been featured in Newsweek’s “The Creative Class of 2019: Innovators,” People magazine’s “Heroes Among Us” and Pix 11’s “Changemaker: Making the Fashion Industry More Inclusive.” She has also been featured in USA Today, Parents, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vogue Business, WWD, NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, Access, CNBC, Fox News Channel and more. An inspiring TED speaker, Mindy has received numerous awards including the Catalyst Award for “Marketing Influencer of the Year,” Citrin Cooperman’s “Women at the Wheel Leadership Excellence Award, the Association of Image Consultants International Bravo Award and Enable Inc.’s Michael Graves Award for Creativity and Persistence.
Mindy studied Fashion Design in a dual program at the University of Vermont and the Fashion Institute of Technology.
This post was previously published on Mia Voss’ blog.
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Photo credit: Mia Voss