One in 20 children in the United States has a disability, and Tommy Hilfiger wants them to be able to wear the same clothes he creates for other kids. In a partnership with New Jersey nonprofit Runway for Dreams, the fashion designer launched a children’s line of adaptive clothing this week.
The line includes Hilfiger’s classic polo shirts, button-ups and khakis, but with adaptations to get in and out of clothing in different ways.
Hilfiger worked with fashion designer Mindy Scheier, who started Runway for Dreams after her son, who has muscular dystrophy, wanted to wear jeans to school.
“I knew jeans wouldn’t fit over the braces and because of his muscle weakness he wouldn’t be able to button them and go to the bathroom by himself,” Scheier said on the Tommy Hilfiger website. “I had a choice that day to crush his self-confidence and tell him he couldn’t wear jeans like his friends, or figure out a way to make it work.”
Scheier worked with the Hilfiger design team to replace zippers and buttons with magnets and adjust pant, sleeve and waistband lengths. The line, available at usa.tommy.com, is for boys sizes 4 to 20 and girls, sizes 4 to 18. Prices range from $19.50 for a T-shirt that closes in the back with magnets, to $42.50 for girls jeggings that have a magnetic opening at the leg to fit over braces.
Not everyone is impressed with the price point of the clothing line. Donna Freeberg has been making clothing for disabled seniors, veterans and children since 2001. Her Brooklyn Park company, Dignity by Design, has been slow to take off because investors question a need for it.
“When I see that Tommy Hilfiger or a New York designer is coming up with disabled clothing, it reinforces that we need it,” she said. “But we also need it for the middle class.”
Maureen Baty of Zimmerman, Minn., who has a 9-year-old with cerebral palsy, said the price tag is steep, but she’s excited about the convenience of not having to waste time and money looking for pants that will work with her son’s wheelchair and leg braces.
“Not to mention that he can actually have a pair of jeans now — like all the other boys his age,” she said.
Anita Beal of Maple Plain adapts her son’s jeans by ripping off the button and sewing on heavy duty Velcro instead.
“Shirts, sweatshirts, jackets though? I am terrified to adapt, “ she said. “I am excited about this new line of clothing and I hope they do sweatshirts too.”
Other parents point out that a clothing line labeled as adaptive doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. People with medical devices may not be able to wear magnets, for example.
Paul LeRoy of Brooklyn Center said: “While the price point is higher than we’d like, and the features may not work for [our daughter], the hope would be the exposure will get other brands on board.”