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Denim Brands Address the Need for Adaptive Jeans

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With millions of people worldwide living with disabilities and sensory issues, which can make daily activities including getting dressed difficult, more brands have sought to help them out by filling the adaptive apparel void.

In 2019, Coresight Research said the underserved adaptive apparel market could potentially reach $349.9 billion globally by 2023. As denim remains such a centerpiece of fashion across all types of consumers, that means that there is plenty of opportunity for more brands to learn more about how they can aid these consumers with more comfortable jeans.

When Tommy Hilfiger launched the Tommy Adaptive line in 2017, the fashion brand estimated that one billion people are living with some form of disability, yet many have been largely overlooked and excluded by the fashion industry. Upon realizing how many people have gone unnoticed by major brands, Tommy Hilfiger saw a huge gap to fill in terms of the adaptive product available and the representation of people with disabilities.

With denim already serving as a major staple within the iconic brand, it was only fitting that the jeans would take on this challenge. “I started my career in fashion because of my love of jeans—they are a classic, all-American staple. A great pair of jeans can make you feel powerful and confident, and we wanted to ensure that all of our consumers, regardless of ability, could feel that way and express themselves with the styles they love,” said founder Tommy Hilfiger.

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Tommy Adaptive is modified from the company’s mainstream line to give shoppers for adaptive clothing the chance to “enjoy the same classic, cool styles that our brand offers,” a company rep said. The only adjustments in the adaptive clothing are the discrete modifications that are added to promote comfortable, easy dressing.

Tommy Adaptive includes adjustable waists and pull-on loops in all pants. The seated styles have a higher rise in the back to provide coverage, and a lower rise in the front designed for comfort. Additionally, the back pockets in seated styles have been moved to the sides of the pants for function and a more comfortable fit, and discrete openings have been created on each side of the pant to allow for greater ease of access.

All adaptive jeans have a magnet and Velcro closure in place of standard buttons and zippers for the fly. There are also magnetic wide-leg openings to create additional room for braces, prosthetics and overall ease of pulling on pants.

Tommy Hilfiger may be the biggest brand name thrusting itself into the adaptive denim business, but smaller companies like IZ Adaptive and Trinidad3 are showing how a little innovation can go a long way.

Tommy Adaptive
Tommy Adaptive Courtesy

Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri, founder of the inclusive fashion label IZ Adaptive, recently launched the “Game Changer” pant after spending years studying how to create a seamless-back to minimize possible causes of pressure sores, which can potentially become a life-threatening issue in the long term.

The Game Changer pants are specifically designed for wheelchair users, who can get pressure sores from a combination of moisture and friction from an ill-fitting garment. The pant looks like a classic jean in the front but the back has revolutionary IZ Seamless Technology, which Camilleri said is designed to be free of seams or pockets that a person would normally be sitting on. These elements, she added, can result in pressure sores. “Everything that we do, the starting point is from a seated perspective,” she said.

Both the indigo and black versions of the jeans are made of pre-washed stretch denim comprised of 98 percent cotton and 2 percent spandex. The jeans follow the line of the seated body, and include an extended front fly zipper with removable pull tab. Different variations include a choice of button or hook and bar closure to give shoppers a wider range of options to open their jeans comfortably.

Trinidad Garcia III, the founder of Los Angeles-based denim brand Trinidad3, has built his company based on his time in the Marine Corps. As unfortunately, many veterans deal with lingering physical issues after their deployment.

Garcia saw an opportunity to help his fellow veterans with the launch of an adaptive line, noting that the new collection specifically can help serve amputees with prosthetic legs. Those who wear prosthetics must adjust the straps on the limb so it won’t bite into their hips. Since it’s hard to adjust straps when wearing pants, and people may feel awkward adjusting pants in public, they won’t do it at all.

Trinidad3 address this issue by applying zippers on each leg that extend from the pocket down to the knee cap. This allows the wearer to easily adjust the prosthetic.

“We can work to hide the prosthetic,” Garcia said. “From a fabric perspective, I wanted to use a weight that that still held some volume there so you couldn’t tell what side the prosthetic was on.”

To construct the adaptive jeans, Garcia says the creative process is the same as it is for any other parts of the brand collection, such as seeking out the best fabric and trims, and understanding what individuals’ challenges are. “We’re meeting what those needs are, whether they are cut off down at the knee or up at the hip,” he said.

Although the comfort level is certainly an important factor, the growth of adaptive denim is arguably just as beneficial on a mental level, especially when it comes to looking good and feeling good.

“I think fashion is freedom because it allows you to be who you want to be and not be restricted by clothes that you feel you have to wear because of your limitation set, either physically, or by being in a chair,” Camilleri said.

Garcia’s inspiration to empower and improve the lives of veterans further developed when he met Josue Barron, a veteran amputee who lost his left leg in Afghanistan in 2010. Barron modeled Trinidad3’s adaptive jeans at Project Las Vegas last year.

“I saw his passion for fashion,” Garcia said about Barron. “He wants to feel the magic that fashion brings—the ‘look good, feel good’ element. The fact that we can use something that we’re very passionate about, which is denim and jeans, to do so, was the most fulfilling thing we’ve done to date.”