Fashion Rule Breakers: Meet The Woman Behind Adaptive Clothing For Differently-Abled Children

"The most important thing was for him to walk into school feeling confident and included."

Fashion Rule Breakers is an original A Plus Lifestyle series: Each month, we profile a fashion designer, model, organization, or icon who is a fashion rule breaker — someone who acts outside mainstream industry standards to make a positive difference. 

This month, we caught up with Mindy Scheier, the fashion designer and mother who launched Runway of Dreams, an organization "working with the fashion industry to adapt mainstream clothing for the differently-abled community."  By helping to introduce clothing for differently-abled children into mainstream retail stores,  Scheier is being a "fashion rule breaker."

Scheier says her son, Oliver, inspired her to create Runway of Dreams.

Oliver, who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, just wanted to be and dress like his friends. But when he pressed his mother to wear jeans, Scheier had a tough decision to make: "I could let him go to school in jeans, knowing his leg braces would not fit under the jeans, and that he would not be able to go to the bathroom on his own, or I could say 'No, you can't dress like your friends,' " Scheier tells A Plus in an email. 

"I decided that the most important thing was for him to walk into school feeling confident and included."

So, in 2013, Schemer founded Runway of Dreams, and began to adapt clothing from various stores to meet the needs of differently-abled people, Fashionista.com reports. Eventually, "her next step was to partner with retailers and fashion designers who were willing to adapt their own collections," such as Tommy Hilfiger.  

Runway of Dreams and Tommy Hilfiger launched their first collaborative line of adaptive clothing in February, featuring 22 garments with discrete adjustments such as magnetic closures, adjustable pants, and sleeves. 

And Oliver loves it. "He's excited that other kids have access to mainstream clothing, too," Scheier adds. 

Photo by Richard Corman

But there's more to be done.

"I hope that soon, there will be adaptive clothing options for everyone and at every budget," Scheier says. "I hope to see an adaptive section in every department store, just like there are petite and plus sections."

Indeed, there have been brands that have developed clothing for those who are differently-abled: Silvert's, for men and women including the elderly, and Buck & Buck, to name a couple. 

But Runway of Dreams is different in that it works to incorporate adaptive clothing into mainstream fashion — adjustments to the clothes are hidden, and, now, they are designed by big names such as Tommy Hilfiger to fit all the latest trends.

And that's revolutionary. 

So far, Scheier says the feedback from the community has been incredible. She adds that both people she's worked with and strangers on social media have connected with the mission of Runway of Dreams and thanked them for their efforts.

Without a doubt, Scheier's mission and work is inspiring. When asked for advice for people who want to make a positive difference but need a place to start, Scheier's advice is powerfully simple: "Start small and dream big!" she says. 

"I began this journey by modifying a single pair of jeans for my son to wear to school and I dreamt that someday people of all abilities would feel confident knowing that they have access to mainstream clothing brands. This partnership with Tommy Hilfiger marks a big moment and moved us one step closer to our goal of helping to change an industry for the better," she adds.

It's a step the fashion industry — and all of us — can be proud of.

For more information, visit the Runway of Dreams Facebook, Instagram, and website, shop the Tommy Hilfiger collection, and check out the video below:

Video by Helen Polise