5 Adaptive Fashion Creatives You Should Know About

NOV 16, 2021
Ernaisja Curry wears a Sparklezilla design.

Model Ernaisja Curry wears a Sparklezilla design.

We asked Chicago artist and designer Sky Cubacub, who started their own adaptive fashion company, Rebirth Garments, in 2014 why they do their work. You can read more of what Sky, a Fall 2019 Small Business Grant recipient, had to say in this post’s companion piece, “Sky Cubacub on Why Making Clothes for Every Body Is Important.”

According to Sky, their work “maintain[s] the notion of Radical Visibility, a movement based on claiming our bodies and, through the use of bright colors, exuberant fabrics and innovative designs, highlighting the parts of us that society typically shuns.” That Sky’s work merges all those things together in a package that celebrates all bodies, is not only joyful, but also exciting! 

To learn more, we asked Sky to share some individuals and companies also working in this space. Read on to meet other five adaptive fashion creatives, including Aqua Underwear founder Mel Martinez, who reminds us that “disabled folks are the largest so-called minority group in the world, so if we’re not designing with those communities in mind, we’re leaving a lot of people out.”

Lindsey Whittle portrait

Lindsey Whittle

Name: Lindsey Whittle
Artist identity: Sparklezilla
Instagram: @sparklezilla
Website: https://www.sparklezilla.com/
Spoonflower shop: https://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/sparklezilla

 

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about adaptive fashion?

“In general, I encourage people to be curious about what they wear and all the possible ways we could wear [clothes]. When thinking about adaptive fashion, I think it can be easier to be inclusive with designs than people realize, being proactive about that is so important.”

As makers often have future clients in mind when they create, who do you make your clothes for?

“I tend to be more of an artist that makes clothes, then a designer who makes for clients. So I make garments that fulfill conceptual foundations that I actively build. My garments are often about using the body as a starting point to create shapes and collaborate with others. I tend to make garments that can change and evolve and be prompts for movement and performance.”

A tall brightly colored sculpture by Lindsey Whittle stands amongst trees.

Photo by Dustin Schleibaum.

Ernaisja Curry wears a Sparklezilla design

Model: Ernaisja Curry. Photo by Grace DuVal.

Mel Martinez portrait

Mel Martinez

Business: Aqua Underwear
Instagram: @AquaUnderwear
Website: https://www.aquaunderwearslc.com/

 

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about adaptive fashion?

“Disabled folks are the largest so-called minority group in the world, so if we’re not designing with those communities in mind, we’re leaving a lot of people out. We should all be incorporating fun and affirming adaptive fashion into our work!”

As makers often have future clients in mind when they create, who do you make your clothes for?  

“Aqua Underwear designs and plans with a particular eye on queer, gender and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) inclusion. We’re always working towards better size and disability inclusion as we grow and learn, as well.”

Left to right, Deidrene Crisanto, Jordan Sims, James Long wear Aqua Underwear

Models, left to right: Deidrene Crisanto, Jordan Simmons and James Long. Photo by Denae Shanidiin.

James Long stands on the left and Nikita Abraham stands on the right wearing Aqua Underwear.

Models, left to right: James Long and Nikita Abraham. Photo by Carolina Menendez.

Pansy St. Battie portrait

Pansy St. Battie

Name: Pansy St. Battie
Instagram: @pansystbattie

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about adaptive fashion?

“That adaptive fashion isn’t just one thing. So many people have different needs from their clothing, and anything that meets those needs can be adaptive fashion.”

Is there anything else you’d like for people to know about adaptive fashion?

“I don’t make clothes, but I think it’s important to communicate with a wide diversity of people, including disabled people, when creating. There doesn’t have to be a strict line between adaptive fashion and “normal” fashion. Encompassing inclusivity in everyday fashion regardless of the target audience benefits everyone.”

Pansy St. Battie sits sideways in a wheelchair with their left leg up in the air.
Pansy St. Battie is on stage wearing gold-toned clothing, holding on to a wheelchair.
Sandie Yi portrait

Sandie Yi

Instagram: @cripcouture

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about adaptive fashion?

“Why do we need to create “adaptations?” Why aren’t they available in the first place? I think that we need to start by asking these questions. If fashion had started with including people with a wide range of sizes, genders, body shapes and disabilities on fashion catwalks and [in the] modeling industry, we would not need to make “adaptations” based on the “normative” standards.”

As makers often have future clients in mind when they create, who do you make your clothes for?  

“I make wearables more like conceptual art piece[s]. My work is about generating conversations about the lived experiences as disabled people.”

Sandie Yi wearing her piece "Animal Instinct"
Sandie Yi's piece "Em-braced."
Andy Amor portrait

Andy Amor

Name: Andy Amor
Business: Amor Design Studio (company); Amor Binders (brand)
Instagram: @amor_design_studio, @amor_binders
Website: https://www.andyamor.com

What’s the one thing you’d like people to know about adaptive fashion?

“Adaptive fashion is more than simply altering an existing garment to enable disabled people to more easily wear it. It’s about offering something that gives people the confidence to embrace who they are, live the lives they want to live, and feel good in their bodies at the same time.

Since founding Amor Binders — my size inclusive, sensory-friendly brand of gender-affirming shapewear — I’ve come to learn that adaptive fashion requires a lot of thinking outside of the box.

There will always be room for improvement, and it’s near impossible to design a product that will be accessible for everyone, but the more brands there are out there not just making adaptive fashion, but keeping accessibility at the forefront of every aspect of how their business operates, the easier it will be for marginalised minorities, particularly people within the trans and disability community, to access what they need. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable and good in their bodies, and adaptive fashion is the way forward to make that possible.”

As makers often have future clients in mind when they create, who do you make your clothes for?  

“My own story is important in who I design for, and why, so I am going to share a little about that. In 2014, I started exploring my gender identity, and began the process of socially transitioning. Part of that process involved wearing items that helped me feel more affirmed in my gender identity, including chest binders – a garment designed to compress and give a flatter appearance to the chest. However, as an autistic person with sensory-processing difficulties, I found the options available at the time unbearable to wear, as they were all dreadfully uncomfortable.

So, this was when I first got the idea to start my own line of gender-affirming shapewear. While custom making chest binders for people in the early days of my business, I soon realised that another barrier — aside from comfortability — for a lot of trans folk is sizing. At that time, there was no binder brand that had designed chest binders specifically for people with larger chests, and anyone who wasn’t a straight size struggled to comfortably fit into any binder.

It became my passion to design a binder that would fit better, and be more comfortable for neurodivergent trans and gender diverse folk, of all sizes. I can proudly say that I have designed a chest binder, the Full Chest Reversible Racerback, that is the first of its kind. It is not only sensory friendly, but fits comfortably on people who otherwise have not been able to find anything else that fits them. The sensory friendly, size inclusive binders that I have designed for my brand Amor Binders have already changed the lives of countless people within the trans and gender diverse community, particularly neurodivergent people like myself.”

Three people wear Andy Amor's Racerback Chest Binders

Models: Andy, Sable, and Frankie wearing Reversible Racerback chest binders.

A model wearing one of Andy Amor's Racerback Chest Binder, as show from the back.

Model: Elliot wearing a Full Chest Reversible Racerback chest binder.

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About the Author
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Betsy Greer

Betsy is a writer and stitcher who joined the Brand Marketing team in July 2021. In her spare time, she talks to people about their choice to make things by hand and related lessons learned for her project Dear Textiles. She also aims to befriend all the dogs she meets and is forever looking for the perfect dress pattern with pockets.

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Sky Cubacub on Why Making Clothes for Every Body Is Important

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