October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), the time we reflect on the contributions of workers with disabilities. The focus of the awareness campaign this year is “Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities.” This awareness campaign is often overlooked even though it’s been around since 1988.
As I contemplated NDEAM and what it means to me, I immediately thought about clothing. How great it will be to someday be able to discuss new mainstream designers who have started designing and selling clothing for people with physical disabilities. And that’s when it hit me, why wait for someday when this problem can be solved today with pre-sold, crowd sourced designer capsule collections! The designer capsule collection is to the fashion industry what the fast acting gel capsule is to pain. It’s a way to quickly normalize designing for and marketing to the fashion consumer with physical disabilities.
Earlier this year Derek Lam teamed up with Ebay to present Ebay’s first crowd sourced capsule collection. Washington Post reporter Katherine Boyle quotes Lam, “It’s a chance to expand the brand and reach an audience that may not be as familiar with the brand.”
Capsule collection is fashion industry jargon for a small limited collection and the phrase “crowd sourced” according to Boyle, was developed by eBay and it means consumer selected. Ebay shoppers were given a choice of 16 looks and the top five looks that received the most votes made up the capsule collection. Since Ebay shoppers selected the looks they wanted, when the collection went on sale it sold out quickly. This was a winning scenario for everyone involved.
Derek Lam enthusiasts were able to interact with their favorite designer and get clothing designed by him at a reasonable price. Derek Lam created a stronger bond with his consumer, and even introduced his brand to new consumers. Retailers that sell Derek Lam are now the new “go to” place for new consumers wanting more Derek Lam. And of course, Ebay gained fashion industry credibility while providing a unique, exclusive opportunity for their shoppers.
The way I see it, this is a perfect low-cost, low-risk model for designers to expand their demographic to include people with physical disabilities. For example, Ralph Lauren, who has designed for the Paralympics Opening & Closing Ceremonies, could enter into an exclusive partnership with the online distributor of his choice. Present 12 -16 looks as a part of a collection for women who use wheelchairs. Connect with sites like Disaboom, Abledbody, Facebook, Twitter and other communities with large disability populations and have women vote on their favorite looks. Once the top five looks have been selected, it can be packaged as an exclusive five look Ralph Lauren collection for women who use wheelchairs. The collection can then be pre-sold on the selected distributor’s site.
Capsule collections, especially crowd sourced capsule collections, are a great way to increase more fashionable, accessible designs for people with physical disabilities while at the same time increasing the market share of the designer without the fear of long term-commitment, will the product sell, etc…The idea of designing clothing for people with arthritis or paraplegia is less threatening when you know the clothing has been preordered, paid for, and is exactly what the consumer wants! Capsule collections without a doubt could help accessible designs become a part of the mainstream fashion landscape.
It only takes one designer to take the plunge. Maybe this time next year, as we celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities to the work place, we can also look at the designers who dress them.