PETALING JAYA: Most people take them for granted – buttons and zippers. They button up their shirts in the morning and unbutton it in the evening without a thought.
But for people with disabilities, buttons and zippers can be huge hurdles in their efforts to live independently.
Two people, one whose daughter has a disability, and the other who is disabled himself, have come together to create an affordable adaptive clothing line for people with disabilities in Malaysia, who often struggle to find easy-to-wear, fashionable clothing.
Usha G Nair’s daughter Ivanna has cerebral palsy and it pained her to see Ivanna battling to button her blouses daily.
22-year-old Bernard Benzamin Nathan meanwhile was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 3 when he was two years old. SMA is an incurable muscle disease that causes muscle weakness and degeneration over time, which means Bernard struggles to dress himself.
This is how Malaysia’s first adaptive clothing brand, Dawn Adaptive, was born. But what is adaptive clothing?
More familiar to people living with disabilities, adaptive clothing is designed for those who have difficulty dressing because they cannot manipulate closures, such as buttons and zippers, or who lack the full range of motion needed to dress themselves.
“Adaptive clothing is not familiar to Malaysians because very few brands include adaptive clothing lines and most able-bodied people are unaware of the need for such clothing,” said Bernard.
He said adaptive clothing is expensive here, with imports costing a whopping RM200 to RM500, way beyond the means of the average Malaysian.
“We wanted to make Dawn Adaptive affordable. Our concept is to produce adaptive clothing in large quantities in order to sell it at more affordable prices.”
Their first product, the Magnetic Polo Tee retails at RM89.90. It has helpful features such as magnetic buttons to make getting dressed a breeze and the labels are conveniently placed on the side bottom of the shirt instead of at the back of the collar to prevent discomfort, especially for those with autism.
No one would realise that it is adaptive clothing as there are buttons on the outside of the shirt.
Since establishing the brand on June 14, Dawn Adaptive has sold close to 100 Magnetic Polo Tees.
Bernard is pleased with this response but hopes more Malaysians will learn about the brand. “The purpose of this business is to make adaptive clothing the norm and not a privilege.”
The company markets its adaptive clothing to people without disabilities as well because they believe it can help save time when dressing up.
“All our promotions and marketing campaigns include able-bodied models. The younger generation finds the magnetic closures in the Magnetic Polo Tee really cool as they make them feel unique when they wear the shirt, and it is fun to wear.”
Dawn Adaptive also aims to create opportunities for economically disadvantaged groups such as people with disabilities by making them a part of the company’s growth.
For instance, the company logo was created by Loga Rajah, a talented graphic designer with lower mobility impairment.
“In the future, in everything we do, we plan to give priority to those with disabilities for job opportunities. If we open a store in the future, those with disabilities will be employed first.
“We are already providing opportunities to people with disabilities and their parents by paying them commission through our dropship business,” said Bernard.
Barely two months after starting operations, Dawn Adaptive has received many requests for adaptive clothing in children’s sizes and trousers with adaptive features.
“We haven’t made any decisions yet, but we are looking into one of these requests for our next collection,” said Bernard.
Visit Dawn Adaptive here.