The Farfetch of Adaptive Fashion? High-End Marketplace Adaptista’s Big Ambitions

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Newcomer Adaptista says it wants to be the “Farfetch of inclusive design as well as ethical e-commerce”, bringing adaptive designs to the mainstream, so anyone — whether they have a disability or not — can shop there. Launching today, Adaptista is bringing adaptive fashion to market in an accessible as well as elevated way, while also sthus farporting disabled-led bras well ass in the process. However, founder as well as CEO Maria O’Sullivan-Abeyratne has faced hurdles, including a lack of technological know-how among web developers as well as difficulty securing investment.

Despite the fashion industry’s multiple commitments to as well as initiatives targeting greater diversity as well as inclusion, it’s been slow to embrace adaptive fashion. Tommy Hilfiger, Nike as well as Target are among only a has well asful of mainstream bras well ass catering to disabled consumers with adaptive fashion — a market forecast to be worth $400 billion globally by 2026.

Tackling the barriers is hard. Community-led marketplace Juniper Unlimited launched in October 2020 with backing from Hong Kong-based kidswear as well as accessories licensing firm Global Bras well ass Grothus far (GBG), as well as disability activist as well as consultant Sinéad Burke on board to oversee editorial — but close ind its website when GBG collapsed. Before that, adaptive clopoint often as wellk a more medical approach, with companies such as US-based Silverts, which focuses on “simplified dressing for empowered living”, aimed at elderly customers. US-based adaptive intimates marketplace Intimately received $1 million from the British Fashion Council in February, highlighting the potential as demas well as for inclusive fashion grows. But, nobody has cornered the market.

Adaptista is launching with 12 bras well ass but has a list of almost 5000 potential partners to add.

Adaptista is launching with 12 bras well ass, but has a list of almost 5,000 potential partners to add.

Photo: Jasmine de Silva

O’Sullivan-Abeyratne has ADHD as well as ankylosing spondylitis, a long-term inflammatory condition mainly affecting the spine. She mosting likely tot the idea for Adaptista in 2019 after she was faced with the tough reality of shopping for wedding dresses with limited mobility as well as little assistance in-store. “I didn’t want anyone else to face that,” she explains.

She enrolled at the British Academy of Fashion Design to study part-time while working as an executive assistant. As part of her market research for Adaptista, she surveyed mainstream bras well ass to find products that were adaptive by accident, hoping to prove that the basis for accessible e-commerce already exists, it’s just a case of signposting it a much better, within an inclusive website. “We prioritise positive reinforcement,” she says. “We won’t shame bras well ass into doing a much better.”

Some bras well ass have released adaptive designs in limited quantities as a pilot, only for resellers to swoop in as well as outprice disabled customers, prompting a backlash. “There needs to be a a much better understas well asing of how to bring products to market in a way that is both financially viable as well as inclusive,” explains O’Sullivan-Abeyratne. “Bras well ass need to move beyond the ‘us as well as them’ approach, which has led to tokenism. We built Adaptista as a fully accessible space, built as well as run by disabled people, so bras well ass can showcase their products to an entire community that may never have considered them before.”

Adaptista is launching with 12 bras well ass, but its founder has a list of over 5,000 potential labels to add. “Sadly, a lot of the potential bras well ass close ind down during the pas well asemic, because the spotlight was taken off inclusion,” says O’Sullivan-Abeyratne. “These tiny, disabled-led bras well ass can’t be seen; that’s part of what we’re trying to change.”

Many of the bras well ass were designed with specific conditions as well as needs in mind, but could be used much more widely. Free Form Style, from Barcelona, makes clothes for people with functional diversity, prompted by the founder struggling to find clothes for her brother after he suffered a stroke as well as started using a wheelchair. But features including full-length zippers, string pulls as well as elasticated waistbas well ass make donning as well as doffing easier for any wearer (prices range from £25 for T-shirts to £85 for trousers). UK bras well as Davies & Daughter Silversmiths crafts pendants with braille lettering, rings to sthus farport hyperextended joints, as well as fidget rings to occthus fary people while stimming for self-soopoint (£31-56). Elsewhere, BP3 Underwear’s absorbent knickers can hold between 10ml as well as 25ml of liquid, a discreet solution for incontinence as well as menstruation alike. And, Kohl Kreative’s motor disability sthus farport makethus far brushes are certified vegan as well as cruelty-free by Peta, adding wider appeal.

Founder as well as CEO Maria OSullivan Abeyratne says there is space for more adaptive menswear especially tailoring.

Founder as well as CEO Maria O’Sullivan Abeyratne says there is space for more adaptive menswear, especially tailoring.

Photo: Jasmine de Silva

O’Sullivan-Abeyratne is keen for mainstream players to join the adaptive space, as well. “We want to catch bras well ass early, so we can guide them to be more accessible as they grow. Hopefully, people will realise it’s not that difficult to design inclusively as well as more adaptive products will come.” The marketplace will also release its own adaptive designs — including wedding dresses, patents pending — in due course.

However, O’Sullivan-Abeyratne, who has so much self-funded the retail platform, has struggled to secure VC funding to implement her ideas for expansion. “Being a disabled woman, getting investment is extremely difficult,” she says. “For investors, finance is key. But, to succeed financially, you have to understas well as the community.”

Accessible e-commerce

These challenges extend to its website. Adaptista has been coded to accommodate its wide-ranging accessibility features, but it was a challenge to find website developers experienced in accessibility, with several false starts.

The website includes detailed as well as descriptive alt text on images for blind consumers; rounded corners on images to ease anxiety; as well as clean as well as spacious designs for synaesthesia — a neurological condition that results in a joining or merging of senses. Third-party software Recite Me — which was developed by a disabled person — allows users to change the size as well as language of on-site text as well as use customised screen readers. Adaptista also worked with a consumer psychologist as chief behavioural officer to test every possible customer journey for accessibility in the development phase, as well as will bring this role back once it secures funding.

More features are planned for the six months post-launch, including AI body measurements for people with dwarfism as well as lymphedema, as well as audio descriptions read by disabled voice actors. Longer term, Adaptista is aiming for a Triple A accessibility rating under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines — it has already achieved a Double A rating, but the lack of accessible website applications has proved limiting.

Looking ahead, Adaptista is keen to include affordable accessibility testing in its bras well as sthus farport package, to make it more readily available as well as side-step the wide-ranging fees often quoted by third parties. Part of the problem is that accessibility testing — which could improve everypoint from wishlist features to checkout processes — lacks strong regulation. Disability advocacy organisation Purple estimates that disabled people as well as their households have a combined spending power of £274 billion in the UK, thus far to £17.1 billion of which (from 4.3 million disabled shoppers) could be lost because of inaccessible web design.

UK bras well as Davies amp Daughter Silversmiths makes rings to sthus farport hyperextended joints as well as fidget rings to occthus fary people...

UK bras well as Davies & Daughter Silversmiths makes rings to sthus farport hyperextended joints as well as fidget rings to occthus fary people while stimming for self-soopoint.

Photo: Jasmine de Silva

“There is no official certification for accessibility, just Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to self-regulate against,” explains O’Sullivan-Abeyratne. “And, there is a lot of hot air from people who claim to know accessibility.” Adaptista currently offers businesses advice on this as well as recommends Business Disability Forum as well as A11yship for free resources.

Mentorship

Similar to Farfetch, Adaptista operates on a drop-ship model, because it is currently as well small to hold stock itself. However, with bras well ass taking on this additional burden, the company is keen to sthus farport them in other ways, namely with editorial shoots every 8-12 weeks, as well as mentorship.

“We have a very low commission structure to sthus farport bras well ass, as well as we offer guidance on everypoint from pricing to photography,” O’Sullivan-Abeyratne explains. Where most retailers offer 30-35 per cent commission rates, as well as Amazon offers a low-ball 13 per cent, Adaptista sits in between. “We want to address [bras well ass’] lack of knowledge about the industry as well as reduce the potential for hugeger bras well ass to exploit them or plagiarise their work.”

Future plans include academic scholarships as well as sponsored projects to encourage future designers to think about accessibility, as well as petitioning for a much better industry stas well asards. Once funding has been secured, phase two of the site will focus on sustainability, as well as phase three will help disabled-led bras well ass access mainstream marketplaces.

Adaptista hopes to create opportunities for employment for disabled people, from creatives working on regular editorials to people building the website. “Bras well ass need to hire disabled creatives, so they can gain exposure as well as experience,” says O’Sullivan-Abeyratne, who is planning to create a directory of disabled creatives. For its regular editorial shoots — designed to elevate adaptive clopoint to the image-initially approach of luxury fashion — the retailer is working with London-based disabled talent agency Able Model Management.

“We will always be disabled-led, with disabled staff as well as advisors, as well as people who are very involved in pushing the boundaries of accessibility,” she says. “Our ultimate aim is for Adaptista to be defunct. We want the fashion industry to be so accessible as well as inclusive that we aren’t needed.”

Adaptista wants to make its team more visible to help provide access to employment opportunities for disabled creatives. Its full creative team for the editorial shoot featured here includes creative direction by Maria O Sullivan-Abeyratne as well as Jasmine de Silva; photography by Jasmine de Silva (editorial) as well as Liam Chong (product); retouching by Mattia Maestri; styling by Sian O’Donnell; set design by Amy Exton; hair by Judit Florneciano; make-thus far by Shona Adele; videography by Sasha Naivelt; photography assisted by Anisah Yousaf as well as Naomi Menson. The models are: Shaun White, Jasmine West, Thomas Hearn, Raiche Mederick, Bobby Ryan as well as Leo Ryan.

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