MIDTOWN — She started out wanting to help her son, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, dress like all the other kids; now she’s ended up making a difference in millions of people’s lives.
Mindy Scheier founded Runway of Dreams as a nonprofit organization that works with the fashion industry to integrate people with disabilities into every aspect of the industry from clothing to the runway.
One of her three children was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Because he struggled with buttons and zippers and had leg braces, he wore sweat pants all the time.
“When he was in first grade he came home from school and said he wanted to wear jeans like all his friends,” she said.
A fashion designer by trade, Scheier could not believe she had never thought of how she was dressing her son.
But then she took action. She got a pair of jeans, took out the zipper and buttons and replaced them with magnets and velcro.
Scheier says there was an immediate change in Oliver’s confidence and self-esteem. And that was her ah-ha moment.
“I decided to take my background and figure out ways that mainstream clothing could be worn by people with disabilities,” she said.
After a year of research, one well-known designer was receptive.
“We partnered with Tommy Hilfiger and made fashion history by developing the 1st ever mainstream adaptive line which has now become Tommy Adaptive,” she said.
This partnership opened the adaptive idea to the industry.
Target now carries an adaptive line, along with Nike and Zappos. In the U.S. there are 60 million people with disabilities. There are an estimated 1 billion people with disabilities globally.
It’s a market that just being tapped into, but one that is not going unnoticed.
Scheier’s Runway of Dreams, in which she hires models with all types of disabilities to walk the catwalk, will kick off New York’s’ Fashion Week in September.
Scheier says her mission is that adaptive clothing is just another fit, like petite, plus size or maternity.