Only one fashion brand, Tommy Hilfiger, took part in the first Runway of Dreams show in 2016. Just six years later, the organization will showcase adaptive clothing from roughly a dozen designers at its Fashion Revolution gala on September 12 during New York Fashion Week (NYFW).
“Everyone who streams the show live this year or attends it in person will see the breadth in the industry,” says Mindy Scheier, who founded Runway of Dreams in 2014 to promote adaptive clothing and create opportunities for models with disabilities. “We’ll have mainstream brands on the runway as well as up-and-coming startups, which is so important in fashion. It’s a really great measurement of how far we’ve come.”
Runway of Dreams has nurtured this fast-growing ecosystem by making it easier for adaptive apparel consumers and designers to find each other. Major retailers such as Kohl’s, Zappos, and Target routinely unveil new product lines during Runway of Dreams events, which are sprinkled throughout the calendar. This year’s NYFW show will also bring high visibility to smaller companies such as No Limbits, whose amputee-friendly jeans won raves (and $100K in startup capital) on Shark Tank this spring; French Toast, a school-uniform brand that will roll out its first-ever adaptive fashions; and Stemwear, maker of functional, fashionable single-limb leggings.
The 2022 NYFW Fashion Revolution will be hosted by CrossFit fanatic Logan Aldridge, an above-elbow amputee who became Peloton’s first adaptive fitness instructor earlier this year. Like all Runway of Dreams shows, it will feature a diverse mix of limb-different models, including first-timers like Army veteran (and above-knee amputee) Earl Granville.
“My military buddies are busting my chops about being the next Zoolander,” laughs Granville, a stalwart spokesperson and fundraiser for wounded warriors. “I’ve done a little bit of modeling in the past, but this is my first time being a runway model.”
While NYFW falls outside his comfort zone, Granville says the Runway of Dreams show hits the sweet spot when it comes to advocating for amputees. “Having a disability doesn’t have to define who you are,” he says. “Embrace what you have and take pride in that. I’m very excited to get my blue steel on.”
With that type of esprit, Granville will fit right in on the Fashion Revolution stage. “The world needs to see people with disabilities as consumers first,” Scheier says. “We are unapologetically focused on that market, and all aspects of the industry, from budget to luxury, are seeing the value people with disabilities bring as consumers. At this stage of the game, that’s our main focus.”