Runway of Dreams: How Fashion-Forward Apparel is Changing Lives

12-year-old Faith Guilbault used to need her mom’s help getting dressed. Not anymore, thanks to a new adaptive clothing line.

Getting dressed in the morning is something we do without even thinking. Not the case for Faith Guilbault, a 12-year-old from Earlville, Md., who has been living with cerebral palsy and periventricular leukomalacia, a type of brain damage, since she was seven months old. To get around, Faith uses a walker, and typically gets up for school at 5:30 a.m. in order to catch the bus at 7 a.m. “I want her to be as independent as possible,” says her mom Karen.

But the independence Karen has dreamed of for her daughter was not always possible until recently. Last year, Karen saw a post on Facebook looking for models for an adaptive clothing line. Faith became part of a focus group for Runway of Dreams, a non-profit organization that works with the fashion industry to adapt mainstream clothing for the differently abled population. Created by Mindy Scheier in 2013, she started the company because of her son, Oliver, who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy. 

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Using the results of that survey, Runway of Dreams worked with a technical designer to integrate wearable technology and other modifications into typical clothing. The outcome is fashionable, mainstream clothing modified for the differently abled population. Global Brands Group, who manufactures Tommy Hilfiger’s clothing, designed shirts with magnetic closures and pants with larger leg openings to accommodate leg braces, for example. 

“It’s going to cut down on time and build her confidence because she will look just like her peers,” says Karen. “The buttons on the shirts look like buttons but they are magnets.”

And Faith is loving her newfound independence. “It has changed my life in a lot of ways,” she says. “Before my mom had to help me get dressed, and now she can help me but I can do it myself.”

Though the current collection is for children, Runway of Dreams’ mission is to work with several brands and retailers on adaptive lines for people of ages, abilities and backgrounds. Scheier is hoping that Runway of Dreams will motivate more fashion brands and retailers to see the necessity for adaptive clothing lines. “The fashion industry has never been more ready for a change like this,” she says.

Shop the Runway of Dreams/Tommy Hilfiger collaboration on Tommy Hilfiger’s website.

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