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Adaptive Apparel Could Be a $47 Billion Opportunity For Brands

Brands and retailers keen to partake in an emerging market may want to focus some attention on adaptive apparel.

According to a study conducted by Coresight Research, the U.S. adaptive apparel market will be worth $47.3 billion in 2019, and is expected to grow by more than 13 percent by 2023 to $54.8 billion.

Inclusivity has been vital in fashion in recent years as more consumers demand to be heard and more are willing to punish the brands that don’t listen. For brands, inclusivity is also often a good business decision. Considering the U.S. Census Bureau says that one out of every eight Americans reports a disability of some kind, a pool of 40.7 million people, adaptive apparel could be the next underserved segment to receive attention from apparel brands.

Coresight reports that an even larger group, roughly half of American adults and around 117 million Americans, reported chronic health conditions with symptoms that could be minimized by adaptive apparel, including arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and the side-effects of chemotherapy. Of that group, 80 percent are 35 and older.

“People receiving treatment for diseases such as cancer and diabetes often have specific clothing needs that have not been met in the past,” Coresight explained.

The worldwide market for adaptive apparel is even larger, according to the report, reaching $288.7 billion in 2019. It is expected to grow faster internationally, as well, with projections showing a more than 17 percent increase in the worldwide adaptive apparel market by 2023, for a total value of $349.9 billion.

“Retailers and brands are emerging to solve specific adaptive clothing needs,” Coresight added. “Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Target, and Zappos were early adaptive innovators, creating collections beginning in 2016 and 2017.”

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Nike’s Flyease sneaker silhouette was designed with a “revolutionary zipper-and-strap system” that allows its wearer to easily put on and remove the sneaker. The company eventually expanded the line, adding a basketball-oriented silhouette. Additionally, Nike’s new Adapt BB self-lacing shoe isn’t being directly advertised as “adaptive” but its features have also proven useful for people with disabilities.

In 2017, Tommy Hilfiger unveiled a new line composed of 54 pieces for men and women with disabilities called Tommy Adaptive. Target’s Cat and Jack line, released around the same time, includes items designed to be worn by toddlers and children that live with disabilities.

Zappos has been very active in the space, sponsoring Runway of Dreams, a fashion show for models with disabilities and the brands that are currently making collections for them. In April of 2018, Zappos partnered with PBS Kids to create an adaptive line for children.

Numerous other smaller brands and startups are also joining the space, confirmed by Coresight’s research. Brands like Van Heusen, and ABL Denim have already joined in and IZ Adaptive, an adaptive line designed by Izzy Camilleri, relaunched in 2018 with more competitive pricing and a larger focus—extending the benefits of the line past its previous customer base of primarily wheelchair users.