Sky Cubacub: Promoting Queer and Disabled Identities Through Fashion
Sky Cubacub is an American designer who identifies as a non-binary and disabled queer activist
Sky Cubacub is an American activist, designer and artist born in Chicago, Illinois. Identifying as a non-binary, xenogender and disabled Filipinx queer, Sky was all too aware of the limitations placed on disabled and queer individuals. This, in part, inspired their love of art and expression. Sky graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. Then, some years later, they found encouragement from a family member who advised them to make a fashion brand for kids with disabilities. That helped them realise the need to make clothes that are inclusive not only for kids but for everyone identified as queer and disabled. And so, Rebirth Garments was born.
Rebirth Garments is not just a fashion brand, it’s an outlet and a way to express identity. The company’s mission is to develop a gender-non-conforming fashion and accessory line for queer and transgender disabled folks of all sizes and ages. The line isn’t centred solely on being cisgender, heterosexual, white and thin like so many other fashion brands, it’s about being whoever you are and whatever that entails. The brand takes a stand against mainstream beauty standards that are all too often exclusionary and oppressive. Instead, Rebirth Garments allows for fluidity, bright colours, exuberant fabrics and the pinnacle of innovative design in order to highlight the parts of their customers that society typically shuns.
In a conversation with The Establishment, Cubacub explains that they love playing on people’s perceptions of them, “I’m always trying to break the schema. It is my ongoing social experiment… Every day is a performance where I bring my body as a kinetic sculpture into the consciousness of the people I interact with in passing and on a daily basis. I get stared at or stopped on the street every day. Because of being a stareable person through the way I present myself,” they said.
But, Sky’s work doesn’t start and end at Rebirth Garments. As an artist and activist, they have made outstanding performances, exhibitions, and lectures around Chicago, New York City and Ottawa. They also have numerous awards to their name, which, most recently include the Ford Foundation, United States Artist, and Andrew W Mellon foundation Disability Futures awards.
It’s important to celebrate people like Cubacub this LGBTQ+ History Month for their amazing contributions to promoting a safe and convenient space for queer and disabled identities through fashion.
Adaptive Kidswear: Get to Know What’s Available Online
Marks and Spencer, Tubie Kids and Seenin are just a few brands investing in adaptive kidswear
Both big brands like M&S and Etsy as well as more emerging companies like Seenin and Tubie Kids are innovating within the adaptive kidswear market. Whether clothes, accessories or shoes, companies are re-designing everyday items to suit multiple disability needs. Blending fashion with function, here we highlight how each company is approaching this movement.
Special Kids Company
The Special Kids Company was founded by Sasha Radwan, who spent time in the Middle East, only to see first-hand how children with special needs were hidden from society’s view there. This inspired her to launch her company, which stocks multiple brands of adaptive wear for kids. Featured on her online store are Scratch Sleeves dungarees, specially designed adaptive clothing for children with autism, eczema and post-surgical healing. And there are wheelchair accessories by brands including Bundle Bean and My Buggy Buddy. Think organisers, cup holders and those all-important rain covers.
Founded by Lucy Carr-Seaman, whose daughter, Hester, was born with a rare agenesis of the corpus callosum named Aicardi syndrome, Seenin is the answer to Lucy’s struggle to find exactly what she needed to make Hester and her life more comfortable. Seenin stocks everything from aprons and bibs to seamless socks and weighted blankets. There’s also a sweet kerchief range that can be designed by the shopper. The style fabric, colour and print can is all bespoke.
Tubie Kids focuses on adaptive clothing and accessories for tube-fed children. This innovative company provides beautifully designed, colourful, tube-friendly yet functional clothing that gives children the full dignity and sensory comfort they need and deserve. Their Tubie Kids® 2in1 Combo Tops are especially brilliant, as they are an everyday staple that has flat seams, no label tags, and a discreet opening for abdominal access.
Marks & Spencer
Retail giant M&S also offers what they’ve called a ‘Kids Easy Dressing,’ range. This collection includes hip dysplasia clothes, feeding tube clothing and zip-up bodysuits. They have rethought where poppers need to be placed as well as introduced super-soft materials to stimulate comfort. Sizes start from newborn and go up to 16 years. From pretty patterns to bold colours, as well as useful multi-packs, there is a lot to admire here.
ASDA’s ‘Easy On Easy Wear’ clothing is designed to support kids in working towards independent dressing via items like pull-on school trousers and ‘Easy On’ 2-in-1 school pinafores where the shirt is attached to the skirt. They have also done their research on sensory-kind fabrics and offer a range of items from sweatshirts to polo shirts that help comfort kids throughout their day.
E-commerce company Etsy hosts an abundance of independent brands and designers that have created adaptive clothing and accessories from first-hand experience. From tube feeding vests for 1-14-year-old boys and girls to adaptive trousers with side zippers and pyjamas with a back zipper, there is a lot on offer that will hopefully make the lives of parents and children living with disability or illness a touch more comfortable.
Slick Chicks: Disability-Inclusive Apparel Designed to Empower
Slick Chicks is Helya Mohammadian’s answer to inclusive clothing
Slick Chicks is a disability-inclusive apparel brand going above and beyond to cater to the needs of many of us that find getting dressed in the morning a challenge. Founded by Helya Mohammadian, the brand was launched when her sister gave birth by caesarean and she saw how daily tasks like bending over to put on clothes quickly became a struggle. Mohammadian saw how not being able to dress herself affected her sister’s mental health as well as self-esteem. This all prompted Mohammadian to create a range of inclusive underwear for women of all handicaps and sizes that met in the middle of fashion and function. A collection that was aesthetically pleasing but aided the wearer to be and feel independent once again.
“Our mission is to empower people to tackle any of life’s daily challenges because we all deserve a sense of self, dignity and independence,” says Mohammadian.
The Slick Chicks team fulfils this mission through their excellent range of underwear that fastens at the side with velcro so wearers do not need to bend over and pull them up over the knees. One of Slick Chick’s most innovative items is a pair of high-waisted leakproof pants that are designed for seated dressing and for those with hand dexterity challenges. The patented liner, created with tech-enhanced absorption qualities also helps to combat stress and urge incontinence.
Slick Chicks has expanded its range to include inclusive athleisure products. Here we’re talking about the accessible hoodie with dropped armholes for easier routing of the arms through the sleeves and an opening designed specifically for tube routing. And there’s also a new accessible jogger, created mindfully with a full zipper opening along the side seams for easy on-and-off access. All in beautiful, easy-to-wear colours too, think black, sand and plum.
Mohammadian has big plans for how to build Slick Chick’s global brand awareness. Firstly, the website is home to the brand’s current campaign, which features adaptive sports charity Angel City Sports in celebration of Jamey Perry, a writer and champion adaptive athlete. The campaign message reads: “Empowered by Slick Chicks adaptive wear Jamey balances life as a mother, writer, and athlete; exploring what it means to celebrate disability — an ingenious way to live.”
In 2022 the company launched on the television shopping channel QVC and went on air via a QVC Live session. This brand presentation made history as it was the first time an inclusive model and intimate brand has been featured on a QVC Live. Also looking to the future, Slick Chicks has an ongoing partnership with the American Cancer Society and will be launching a new campaign with them towards the end of the year.
Watch this very inclusive space. Visit the Slick Chicks website here: https://slickchicksonline.com/
Inclusive Denim: Innovating the Denim Space
Tommy Hilfiger, IZ Adaptive and Able2Wear are all ahead of the curve in the inclusive denim space
Until recently, wardrobes in the disabled community have been missing a staple item, denim. Pivotal to many fashion trends, denim is one of the most commonly worn materials. But, due to its rigid nature, it’s not the most inclusive fabric. Jeans are especially stiff, tight and uncomfortable, and, in their original design, are not wheelchair-friendly in the slightest. This is why a group of brands are turning their hand to innovative inclusive denim that makes wearing jeans a pleasure for those with nuanced needs.
Denim is such a core part of many people’s clothing collections. It goes with anything and can be dressed up or down. Think jeans with a classic, crisp white shirt or a casual denim jacket over a glamorous dress. The ways in which this unique fabric can be styled are endless. And so, the disabled community deserve adaptive versions that cater to their distinct needs. The global Adaptive Clothing Market size was valued at $285.66 million in 2021 and is projected to reach $426 million by 2030. This industry is one to watch.
A brand that has been playing in this space for years is US denim giant Tommy Hilfiger. This global company has been at the forefront of this movement since its ‘Tommy Adaptive’ collection launched in 2017. In the five years it’s been around, innovative items have ranged from jeans with leg zip openings to jackets with magnetic buttons. “Our team is constantly innovating, thanks to our research workshops and your feedback emails telling us what works, what doesn’t, and what else Tommy Adaptive should be doing to help make independence possible,” Tommy Adaptive team.
More brands are following suit, noting how imperative it is to design with the disabled community at the forefront of their minds. IZ Adaptive is a brilliant clothing brand for differently abled shoppers. Founded by Canadian Izzy Camilleri who is a wheelchair user, she spent years researching what differently abled bodies needed and came up with the aptly named “Game Changer” pant. Here an array of gorgeous designs feature a seamless back to minimise possible causes of pressure sores. Meanwhile, Able2Wear is a UK-based company that creates jeans for wheelchair users. Their thoughtful features include elasticated waists and a drop front waist for those who require easy drop front access. In fact, all this brand’s items are specially designed for seating with flat seams to prevent potential pressure sores and a higher back so they are level when seated.
The denim space is thankfully changing to include the disabled community via designs that feel genuinely useful but also stylish. Watch this space for new innovations in years to come.