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How TikTok Created a Platform for Fashion and Disability in 2021

A year for change

On social media, we are constantly seeing progressive changes and opinions as the years go on. We often see topics surrounding body image, gender, and ethnicity. Most importantly, we are starting to see how platforms like TikTok are opening up conversations around fashion and disability.

In a world where we are continuously bombarded with images of 'perfection', TikTok has brought around relatable content which has allowed everyone to feel respected and represented. In addition, TikTok influencers with a disability have used the platform to share who they are, allowing a personal perspective with lots of crucial insight.

The importance of TikTok

If you aren't familiar with the app, TikTok allows users to create short videos that are often accompanied by music. It has now become one of the most downloaded apps in the world, with over 1.9 billion downloads around the globe, and in 2019 it was rated the 4th most popular app in the world.

Because of the short length of videos on the app, the engagement rate is through the roof. So, if you have something important you quickly want to inform people about, TikTok is the place to do it. In addition, people with no previous social media experience have now turned into popular content creators on the platform, reaching thousands of people and gaining millions of views.

Fashion and disability

In 2021, the rise in adaptive fashion – clothing specifically designed for those with disabilities and chronic conditions – reflects newfound awareness of inclusive design. In fact, searches for adaptive clothing saw an increase of 80%.

This welcomed change has started to be adopted by numerous high-end brands. Pioneering the way, Tommy Hilfiger launched a new line for disabled shoppers in 2017. Trousers were fitted with Velcro closings, magnetic zippers, flies, leg openings, and hems to accommodate leg braces and orthotics. The brand then collaborated with Euphoria actress Zendaya creating a collection that featured ten adaptive styles.

Nike then designed a model with state of the art adaptive technology. As a result, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 FlyEase is more accessible to put on than regular shoes, as you can do it with one hand. This highlights where the future of adaptive shoes can venture.

Not only being adopted by luxury brands, but the adaptive market has also become available on the high street and by new start-ups wanting to specialise in disability-friendly fashion.

TikTok's influencers representing disabilities

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of people have some kind of a disability, forming the world’s largest minority community. Here are some TikTok stars who are representing this community.

Shelby Lynch, a 23-year-old model and influencer who goes as @Shelbykinsxo on the app, noticed her following grew after she started posting makeup and fashion videos to her account. With 11.1 million views, Shelby wanted to use the platform to educate her followers about her spinal muscular atrophy type2 whilst still posting content that aligned with her personal interests and passions.

Lucy Dawson, a 25-year-old model, writer, and disability advocate, also uses TikTok to post fashion related videos, relatable content and disability education. Her goal was towards normalising disabled bodies on a big platform. To see Lucy's content, search up @Ludawinthesky on TikTok.

Full-time content creator Jessica Kellgren-Fozard specialises in vintage fashion on the platform. @Jessicaoutofthecloset has hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsy (HNPP), Ehlers–Danlos syndrome (EDS), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and is deaf. She uses her platform to educate about LGBTQ+ communities and busts myths about what life with a disability looks like whilst showing off her fashionable style.

What's next?

With the usage of TikTok set to continue at an all-time high and the rise in fashion brands starting to create adaptive clothing to continue. The future of disability-friendly fashion is looking positive. But, of course, we still have a long way to go till this is just the everyday norm in shops. But, thanks to the TikTok influencers representing disability, this has educated many in understanding why it is so needed in fashion.


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