Donna Karan’s 7 EASIER Pieces

1985 was a big year for Donna Karan. Her seven easy pieces line changed the fashion industry and empowered the lives of women in the generations since.

I like to think 2015 has been a big year for me. Through my advocacy I have built a model that I call ‘Inclusive Retail’. I believe products made sensitively for impairments will change the fashion industry and empower the lives of people with disabilities for generations to come.

Donna Karan’s ‘Seven Easy Pieces’ line gave millions of women quick and affordable access to an entire wardrobe. To many women, these seven pieces felt like freedom. The items included a pair of tights, a bodysuit, the classic white shirt, a pair of versatile trousers, a cashmere sweater, a tailored jacket and a skirt.

It recently occurred to me that it is possible curate seven easier pieces. And I can’t wait to share with Ms. Karan how, with a little extra consideration, her seven easy pieces can quite literally work for any body. Continue Reading →

I Used To Work For Ellen DeGeneres

Now I’m Asking Her To Work With Me To Achieve Inclusive Retail

Dear Ellen,

It has been nearly a decade since I last worked for you. I was your production assistant. I picked up your lunch. I ran your errands. I even once spilled black coffee on your white rug. In my time with you I roderollercoasters, wore a Baby Bjorn mounted hidden camera, discovered paparazzi, laughed my ass off, was brought to tears hearing Annie Lennox warm up, and toured a post Katrina New Orleans. In the years that I worked at The Ellen DeGeneres Show I discovered Los Angeles, met my partner of a decade, and came out of the closet to my parents. The impact this time in my life had on who I am need not be underestimated. Through you, I learned the importance of being my most authentic self. I learned if I lived my truth, society will find a way to embrace me. All of me. Continue Reading →

Jenna Lyons Designed an Orange Wheelchair

Jenna Lyons has been incredibly quiet these last few months. And I don’t blame her, she’s the Creative Director of a company that has gone through a round of massive layoffs.

It just seems a little odd to me that in her first interview in months, this is how she chooses to answer the question “Where do you see yourself in another 25 years?”

“Oh my God…I’ve got my wheelchair designed! It’s going to be powder-coated in neon orange.” ~Jenna Lyons

Let me get this straight. I have been petitioning a company for the last 2 years, asking them to sell a cane. A powder-coated purple cane. And the Creative Director of that company suddenly answers an open ended question by saying she has a wheelchair designed? And the defining feature is its color?

I’m starting to wonder if we’re finally getting through to them.

Please, if you haven’t already, take a moment to sign.

The ADA, Fashion & Disability on NPR

Update: J. Crew told NPR that they will not be selling a cane, as they are focusing on their ‘core business’. At this time, it seems we have a hard no. I will be responding to J. Crew on The Seams podcast, airing on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. I’m both heartbroken and more determined than ever. I do believe there is a mainstream retailer that can and will embrace their diverse and disabled customer base. If you’re that retailer, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Update: It just aired! I hope you will take a moment to check out “From Canes To Closures, Designing With Style For People With Disabilities“.

For the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a special report (featuring Yours Truly) will air on NPR on Saturday, July 25th. This will be followed by an extended look on The Seams podcast on Sunday, July 26th. Check out the Press Release below and don’t miss Weekend Edition with Scott Simon this coming Saturday, July 25th. Continue Reading →

Full Bottom Undies And Flat Bottom Shoes. Purposeful Products Can ‘Save’ Gap & J. Crew

Women are asking for their clothes to work for them. Historically it has been the other way around.

Recently, there have been a series of noteworthy stories on women’s clothing trends. When ‘J. Crew Struggles With Its Great Man Dilemma’ (about J. Crew’s recent struggles),  ‘Young Women Say No to Thongs‘ (about the millennial trend of wearing granny panties instead of thongs), or ‘Shoes That Put Women In Their Place’ (about the Cannes dress code of heels) are read individually, one can see the political nature, the sexual nature and the simple visual nature of the products women have historically chosen to wear. But when read in conjunction, a theme appears. These articles demonstrate how women are becoming less comfortable with ‘the role’ their garments are asking them to perform. The parallel that bridges the ’thong’, the ’heel’ and the ‘basic’ is bigger than a trend. It’s a change in lifestyle. Women want purposeful products. And the purpose these products must serve is shifting from performative to functional. Continue Reading →

Basketball Shorts Are Longer Than Football Pants

It’s true. Basketball shorts are officially longer than football pants. The difference is subtle, slightly less than half an inch. But I can’t help but think that the evolution is meaningful. That it could have an impact on my work. I’m someone who aims to find ways to decrease the stigma in assistive products (for people with differing abilities). Athletes clearly have differing (>) abilities. And I want the evolution of their basketball shorts and football pants to fascinate you… the stigma, the aesthetic, the function, the animalistic manliness. This is a perfect example of form meeting function, form interfering with function, and function interfering with form. Continue Reading →

She Wants Size 11 Bucketfeet For Her Size 11 Bucket Feet

UPDATE: OH MY GOD! WE DID IT!!!! 

BUCKETFEET WILL START SELLING WOMEN’S SIZE 11 SHOES AT THE END OF THE WEEK!!!!!

Kristen just received this message from BucketFeet!!!

Hi Kristen,

I just wanted to send you a quick update and let you know what we’re going to start carrying BucketFeet women’s size 11 in our new collection, which is launching at the end of this week – stay tuned!

Please let us know if we can help you with anything at all!

Best,
Kimberly

THANK YOU BUCKETFEET! Kristen and I are fans for life!  Continue Reading →

NYCSeatShare Is Not Alone: Tokyo’s Help Mark Badge

For the past year, I have been devising a plan to ensure that my friends with Invisible Disabilities have the same access to subway seats that I have (as someone with a not-so-Invisible disability). This brainstorming led to a concept for a NYCSeatShare badge. And so much has happened since originally posting the idea back in February.

And to my great excitement, this first followup post will introduce you to NYCSeatShare’s newfound friend! This red tag is called the Help Mark badge and it comes from an amazing and faraway land called Tokyo, Japan. Continue Reading →

On Fashion, Down Syndrome & the Varsity Letter

I told myself I wasn’t going to comment on this story. But it’s time.

Michael Kelley Down Syndrome

Michael Kelley is a high school student who participated throughout the basketball season for the East High Aces in Wichita, Kansas. At the end of the season, his mother purchased a varsity letter for his letterman jacket. And he proudly wore it. He wore it until he was asked by the school to remove the letter… because the letter was official and his status on the basketball team was not. Continue Reading →

Takafumi Tsuruta: Not Bound by the Convention of Disability

I have written fairly critically about the new trend of fashion designers hiring runway models with disabilities. The media has been quick to embrace the ‘inspiring’ inclusion of more culturally diverse models, but I am someone who has found the entire trend cringeworthy. As my passion is finding ways to ease the stigma of assistive devices, I feel the need to point out that none of the designers who are hiring models with disabilities actually make or market a product for someone with a disability.

So you can color me unimpressed when I read this headline: Continue Reading →

Levi’s Women’s Commuter Jeans: Form > Function

At a time when female bicycle commuters are seeing their greatest numbers ever, it seems only natural for a mainstream retailer to market to this new trend. The profile of a fashionable bicycle commuter is slowly being mainstreamed.

In October 2014, The New York Times wrote a story titled Cyclists Go Glam Into the Night featuring trendy commuting products like the Lightening Vest by Dargelos and a Riding Dress by Vespertine. These bespoke companies seem to be driving a trend that first garnered global attention 2011 when Levi’s introduced their men’s commuter jean line. Cycling and commuting enthusiasts lauded the versatility of a pant that you could both ride to and be at work in. And they were made readily available both in local bicycle shops and national retailers. Continue Reading →

Would You Buy A Jacket Designed For Someone In A Wheelchair?

One of these rain jackets was created for someone in a wheelchair. The other? For someone on a bike. Continue Reading →

Commuting with Invisible Disability: An NYCSeatShare Idea

Update: The response to this post has been incredible. And for that, I thank both you, the reader and the staff of Medium for helping to spread the word about this idea. I just had a meeting with Commissioner Victor Calise at the Mayors Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) and he loves the idea! Product designs are currently in the works! Continue Reading →

The Paradox of Featuring Fashion Week Models with Disabilities

It’s fashion week, and as has become the trend, designers are employing beautiful people living with disabilities to model their fashions on one of the biggest runways in the world.

Here’s the thing, there are no mainstream retailers or fashion designers making or marketing products for these disabled models. Disabled models are simply used to promote the universal concept of inclusion for brands who don’t actually sell or do anything inclusive. Continue Reading →