Q&A: Mindy Scheier previews SXSW talk on adaptive clothing

Kenzie Kowalski

Mindy Scheier’s son Oliver wanted to wear jeans to school just like everyone else, but due to his rare form of muscular dystrophy, finding jeans that would work for his body was nearly impossible. 

Seeking better clothing options for her son, Scheier employed her experience designing and styling at retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue to create adaptive clothing and influence others to do the same. Adaptive clothing is designed for those who may have difficulty physically dressing themselves. Scheier founded the Runway of Dreams Foundation in 2014. By launching this company, Scheier said she realized millions of people are affected by their inability to find fashionable and feasible clothing to meet their needs, just like her son. 

With a mission to create clothing that is both adaptive and inclusive, Scheier is one of four industry leaders moderating the SXSW event “How Adaptive Design is Transforming Brands” on March 8, from 11 a.m. to noon at the Four Seasons Ballroom AB. The Daily Texan spoke to Scheier before heading into the first weekend of festivities. 

Daily Texan: What issues concerning adaptive clothing and its impact on the industry do you plan to touch upon at SXSW?

Mindy Scheier: Adaptive clothing is becoming more mainstream and having retailers like Zappos now carrying the adaptive product. They have a section on their site called Zappos Adaptive. I’m actually on their advisory council. From my perspective and being in this kind of world for about six years now, it has come such a long way in such a short amount of time. When I really was established in 2015, there were no mainstream brands that were carrying adaptive products. Then, in 2016, when I partnered with Tommy Hilfiger to create the first ever mainstream adaptive clothing line, it really was the start of something that, only a short three years later, we have Tommy Adaptive, we have Cat & Jack at Target, Zappos Adaptive, Nike FlyEase sneaker. 

DT: What is your biggest inspiration in this industry? 

MS: Oliver opened my eyes to this need, but what really keeps me going every day are the amount of stories and emails and texts that I get about how even just raising awareness to this issue of clothing, just for people with disabilities, has changed people’s lives while they live it. 

DT: If someone were to ask you, ‘Why should I come to this talk?’ how would you answer them?

MS: I would say that people should come listen because this is the future of fashion, and I think it will be a historic time to live through in terms of, you know, there’s almost 60 million people in the United States alone that have a disability, making it the largest minority on our planet. To think that this population has never been considered by the fashion industry is such a shocking aspect. I think it will be really amazing to hear about the evolution of not only how it came to be, but where it’s going.

DT: What do you think would make people excited to hear your talk at SXSW? 

MS: I just think that it would be so exciting, especially for your generation, to come and hear from myself, also Cacsmy Brutus who is also coming. She’s really made headway in becoming a model with a disability, and she just has such an amazing story and just how that goes adaptive came to be. I just think, of all panels, that this is really the one that I think people will come back to and say, ‘Wow, I was there and it was all kind of happening,’ and now here we are, five years later, and adaptive clothing is just another fit in the fashion industry. I think it would be really, really cool for people to be a part of this evolution by coming to hear our panel.