Mindy Scheier of Livingston, N.J. began modifying her son Oliver's clothing after he came in asking to wear jeans like the other kids at school. Her 10-year-old son usually has to wear sweatpants because he has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, which makes it hard for him to dress himself and for which he must wear leg braces.
Formerly a designer for Federated Department Stores, the brand that owns Macy's and Bloomingdale's, Scheier began making adjustments to already made clothing to empower her "differently-abled (a term she prefers to disabled)" son. With the modifications — Scheier added hidden magnets to button-down shirts and pants with easy access to leg braces — Oliver can dress himself and dress like other kids at school in the latest fashions.
But Scheier sought to do more than improve the quality of her own son's life which led her to create Runway of Dreams, a nonprofit that advocates for modified mainstream clothing for children and young adults.
"We need for the public to understand this is important," she told NJ.com. "It's mind-blowing that we are not in a place yet where clothing is available [in stores] for the differently-abled."
Scheier reached out to other families after doing research and working with Montclair marketing agency GWP as well as holding focus groups with parents of disabled children through Livingston's Horizon School. She found many others interested in her idea. While modified clothing options exist, Scheier and other parents told NJ.com, they're generally expensive and not necessarily sartorially up-to-date. This leaves a niche for Scheier and her idea.
Last month Scheier partnered with children's clothing retailer Fishman & Tobin to make sample items for a local fashion show. She's also about to close a deal with an undisclosed brand to include clothing options for differently-abled children.
There has been a recent push for disability inclusion in high fashion. During February's New York Fashion Week, Jamie Brewer, an actress and activist with Down syndrome walked in Carrie Hammer's show. Afterward, fashion company FTL Moda put on a runway show during NYFW comprised of a diverse mix of disabled and able-bodied models and the first amputee to walk the NYFW catwalk.
Today and tomorrow, March 10, Runway of Dreams is holding a two-day shopping benefit at 68 Rockledge Drive, Livingston, NJ. From 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. today and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and again from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, shoppers are invited to explore various clothing and accessories with 15 percent of all proceeds going directly to Runway of Dreams.