CHICAGO – You might not think about putting on a hoodie when you need it or want it, but for some people its design can be difficult to manage.
Hard-to-grip zippers, pockets that aren’t in the right place, clothes that, if you’re blind, you can’t tell what color they are.
Lincoln Park resident singer / dancer / writer Meredith Wells is one of four co-founders of Social Surge, a new clothing brand focused on accessibility for everyone, especially people with disabilities and the gender non-conforming community.
The Social Surge team of people with disabilities consults on clothing design after sharing their difficulties in dressing. Wells said kangaroo pockets on hoodies were problematic for people in wheelchairs because their cellphones often fell to the floor when they had to move out of the chair. Armed with this knowledge, Social Surge created the Utility and Heroic hoodies with vertical pockets to keep phones safe. The Elevate Zip Hoodie was designed with a full-length magnetic zipper so people with limited manual dexterity don’t have to endure the difficulty of aligning the teeth of a traditional zipper to get started. , Wells said.
“We make fashionable and functional clothing based on those needs, but even if you’re not in a wheelchair, you put your phone in that pocket and it’s just secure,” Wells said. “It’s great for everyone, and that’s what we really want to bring to the table – making clothing accessible is good for everyone. That doesn’t make it impossible for someone who isn’t. visually impaired or not in a wheelchair unable to use this garment. “
Wells calls this “reverse the scenario” when it comes to the fashion design process. Instead of making a t-shirt and then trying to find a consumer, Social Surge gets to know the consumer and asks them: what are your struggles with getting dressed? What could you really use in a garment?
They said visually impaired consultants said: “I don’t know which hoodie is what color when I take it out of the washing machine after the tag is removed.” Social Surge Response: All of their clothes have the color and brand name in Braille.
“We have an amazing group of ambassadors, accessibility consultants and people with disabilities who have been with us every step of the way, and it’s something different from other people trying to create clothing for people with disabilities.” , Wells said.
FOUNDING SOCIAL EVOLUTION
Diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome at the age of 19, a form of autonomic dysfunction that affects blood flow, Wells contacted the co-founders of Social Surge (based in New York City) just over two years ago. via Wells ‘YouTube channel, where the intersections of Wells’ gay and disabled identities are openly discussed. But it was at college that Wells had an “aha fashion moment.” Wells was in the process of making costumes quickly (adding snaps / Velcro / magnets to clothing to facilitate quick changes in theatrical productions) at the University of Massachusetts costume store in Amherst, when the realization came from the simplicity of changing clothes. to make it more accessible.
“I was surprised to find that most of the clothes didn’t fit as well now that I was in a wheelchair,” Wells said. “I looked around and said it’s so easy, it doesn’t lengthen the production process, it costs relatively the same price, why don’t people do that? My theory ? I don’t think people think about the needs of people with disabilities unless they a) have a disability or b) know someone with a disability, although that is a big part of the population.”
Wells knows that Social Surge isn’t the only line of clothing suitable for adults with disabilities, but has said what doesn’t exist is clothing accessible to people of all abilities that is not separated into their own category. .
“I like to think of this in a similar vein to what was once considered plus size clothing, which had its own separate store 20 years ago,” Wells said. “Fast forward to today, you don’t really find that much of that – you find all the brands, having a more inclusive size range. Who wants to buy separately? Everyone wants to shop together. We want people to feel included, so we use what’s called universal design which is basically making a piece of clothing that appeals to as many people as possible. “
As for the gender-non-conforming population, Wells said Social Surge has gotten rid of the clothing categorization – more clothing for men and women.
“Clothing is separated into the men’s category and the women’s category, but when someone is not binary or gender non-conforming, where do they shop? Wells said. “Clothes don’t have gender per se, but it certainly doesn’t make someone who isn’t gender feel good about having to buy clothes that are labeled in a way that doesn’t resonate. with them.”
Social Surge (which has an upside down A, symbolizing the mathematical notation meaning “For All”) hopes to draw more attention to their push for inclusiveness in fashion with its Kickstarter campaign. With a goal of $ 50,170, the campaign raised $ 13,399 on Thursday.
“Kickstarter funding puts these accessible clothes in the hands of the 15% of the population who need them most,” Wells said. “With a contribution of $ 25 or more, you’re essentially doing a pre-order. By placing a large purchase order, we are able to reduce the cost of each piece of clothing and make it more accessible, which is really important because around 25% of people with disabilities live in poverty, so making accessible clothes at an affordable price is the cornerstone of everything we do. “
A brand that brings together body image, identity and accessibility, Social Surge does something for inclusivity in fashion by using consumer feedback to dictate its designs.
“We always want to hear from people if they feel like something is missing,” Wells said. “We want to make it as accessible to as many people as possible.”
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