Author’s Blurb: I usually tend to take many of my abilities for granted until the day I can’t use them for a while due to an injury. It makes me more understanding of how those who were born without specific abilities or who lost them to a disease feel.
Have you ever woken up, put on a button-up shirt and been grateful that your fingers are able to deftly do up the buttons?
It’s safe to say that many of us take this for granted.
Usha’s daughter, Ivanna is a bubbly and curious girl who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was just a baby.
It impacted her ability to do minute daily tasks on her own, including buttoning up her shirts.
Following this experience, Usha realised that there was a bigger issue: many other Malaysians with disabilities struggle to access easy-wear and fashionable clothing.
Dictionary time: Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.
On the other hand, Usha’s friend and co-founder Bernard was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) type 3 at the age of 2 years old.
Dictionary time: Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 3 is a rare disease characterised by muscle weakness resulting from the degeneration and loss of the lower motor neurons in the spinal cord and the brain stem nuclei.
The two instantly clicked when they met up one day, as they had the same idea of creating an adaptive clothing line that could cater to differently-abled folk. This idea would later be manifested as Dawn Adaptive.
Catering To The Differently-Abled Community
Launched on June 14, 2020, Dawn Adaptive makes inclusive clothing that everyone can wear, inspiring confidence and self-expression.
Their first and only product, the Magnetic Polo Tee is designed to make dressing quicker and easier particularly for people with disabilities from strokes, old age persons with Parkinson’s disease, and the infirm, for example.
Since there were no Malaysian brands in this market before Dawn Adaptive, the duo looked to many overseas adaptive clothing from the US, UK and Singapore.
However, they found that it all cost a bomb (RM200-RM500 per article of clothing) to an average income earner, especially after adding up shipping costs.
“We weren’t very happy with this, because we believe adaptive clothing is something essential to a person who could really use it. It shouldn’t be overpriced for the sake of making profit in business,” Bernard shared.
To get started, they surveyed how much people were willing to spend, as well as what clothing designs and types they’d prefer.
They didn’t have to look far for respondents as Bernard had previous connections from his talent and modelling agency, DON Management, that works with and casts differently-abled and alternative models.
Stitching Together An Inclusive Product
The Magnetic Polo Tee is ultra simple to wear. Magnets are stitched along the inside of the T-shirt, and all you have to do is bring them together.
Because there are still regular buttons on the outside, it looks like you’re wearing another common T-shirt.
Finding the right magnet wasn’t easy, and the team spent precious time and money to make sure they got the right fit.
They couldn’t be too strong, otherwise they’d make dressing harder, and not too weak, or else the shirts would open with a small tug.
The magnets are permanent and won’t lose their magnetism up until they’re exposed to temperatures of 80C and above, and as long as they remain unbroken.
Unfortunately though, in the unlikely case that the shirt gets torn and the magnets fall out, they recommend getting a new T-shirt as they don’t sell replacement magnets separately.
One of the only groups that the Magnetic Polo Tee doesn’t cater to are those with pacemakers, as the magnets could cause a disruption and lead to death in the worst-case scenario.
In the future, Dawn Adaptive has plans to come up with clothing designs that have Velcro, zippers, and more.
Taking the extra mile to truly be inclusive as possible, Dawn Adaptive also sews their T-shirt labels at the side instead of behind the neck area.
“This is because people with autism have sensitive sensory issues, and these little details matter very much to them to give them a comfortable wearing experience,” explained Bernard.
More To Add To The Adaptive Clothing Line
As of today, Dawn Adaptive has sold close to 100 T-shirts since starting operations. Priced at RM89.90, the Magnetic Polo Tee can be bought on their website and Shopee.
The team aims to go international and become the number one adaptive clothing brand in Asia, and maybe even Europe someday.
While they currently only have the shirt which is catered to adults, they’ll be expanding the clothing line in the future and for different age groups too. Bernard shared, “We are having a lot of requests for kids’ range and also adaptive pants.”
Aside from selling inclusive clothing, Dawn Adaptive also aims to create working opportunities for economically disadvantaged groups, by supporting skilled individuals with disabilities to be part of the growth of the company.
For example, the company logo was created by Loga Rajah, a talented graphic designer diagnosed with lower mobility impairment.
“Usha believes that the fashion industry needs to become more inclusive of people with disabilities, from the design process, marketing campaigns to the retail experience and customer service,” Bernard said.
Bottom Line: Having had carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand before where it was so numb that I couldn’t even use chopsticks or fasten my watch, I can definitely see how having a quick and easy magnetic fastener in clothing would be a lifesaver for those living with long-term motor skill difficulties.
- You can read more about other Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Dawn Adaptive