When we’re shopping for children’s clothes, we’re usually thinking about our own children. But a lot of the time, the models in the catalogue don’t look much like our own kids at all, especially if they have physical or intellectual differences. Lately, though, we’ve seen lots of kids’ clothing brands practicing inclusive marketing, celebrating every child’s differences in their print ads and online.
Thanks to big-name brands offering adaptive clothing and designers seeking out runway models with disabilities, there’s been a palpable uptick in inclusive marketing the past several years. We think these brands are sending the right message—one of diversity and acceptance, and we love to support them! Here are a few of the best.
1. Eyelet & Ivy — Eyelet & Ivy clothing is as purpose-driven as it is cute! This Texas-based brand was started by two Southern moms (one from Mississippi and one from Alabama) who had a special love for dressing their kids. Co-Founder Evey Ellis’ third daughter, Rebecca, was born with Down syndrome, and the pair decided to launch their brand in order to raise awareness for this chromosomal condition. Rebecca now serves as one of Eyelet & Ivy’s models.
2. Matilda Jane—The boho brand Matilda Jane—whose mission is to make all little girls feel happy and carefree—strives to represent kids of all abilities in their advertising and has been doing so since 2014. Calling itself an “unpredictable clothing company,” Matilda Jane continues to slash boundaries in its advertising, pledging to use at least one model with a disability in each monthly photo shoot. The brand also partners with an organization called Changing the Face of Beauty, which is a nonprofit with a mission for promoting the integration of individuals with disabilities in advertising and media.
3. Livie & Luca—This delightful children’s shoe company made waves when it hired then 4-year-old Cora Slocum, who has Down syndrome, to model its back-to-school collection in 2015. As another official partner of Changing the Face of Beauty, Livie & Luca kicked off that original campaign with the hashtag #ImGoingBacktoSchoolToo. Livie & Luca still takes the inclusion approach with its marketing today, and many of the brand’s shoes are made for kids with disabilities.
4. River Island—The British high street fashion brand River Island recently shook up the industry with its debut of its inclusive collection, called Labels Are For Clothes, and Twitter went crazy when the company unveiled its ad campaign featuring a model with Down syndrome and another in a wheelchair. Earlier this year, River Island cast six youngsters with disabilities—all aged between 3 and 10—to model its collection of stylish kids’ clothes.
5. Cat & Jack—Target’s ultra-popular Cat & Jack brand has been inclusive in two primary ways. First, it has focused on inclusive marketing, featuring print and online ads with kids of a wide range of abilities. Last year, Cat & Jack took their mission a step further by offering a line of adaptive apparel meant specifically for kids with differences. It has created sensory-friendly clothing and adaptive apparel that makes dressing easier for kids and toddlers who live with disabilities. For example, some pieces feature side and back zip closures to make getting dressed just a little bit easier.
6. Tommy Adaptive—In 2016, Tommy Hilfiger partnered with the nonprofit Runway of Dreams to create a complete clothing line just for children with disabilities and later added an adult collection to the mix. Tommy Adaptive includes clothing that’s made specifically for a wide range of disabilities, with styles that are meant to help children dress themselves. The apparel offers easy-dressing features like one-handed zippers, magnetic buttons and Velcro to encourage independent dressing.
7. Gap—Gap has long been an innovator in the space of inclusive marketing and has been including children of all abilities since 2015. That year, it released a back to school GapKids ad featuring a group of kids posing for a class photo, including one in a wheelchair. Gap earned itself many accolades, especially among parents of kids with special needs, and continues to hire models with disabilities. Earlier this year, it became the talk of the town yet again when it featured a girl wearing a hijab in its fall campaign.
8. Marks & Spencer—Major British retailer Marks & Spencer recently came out with an easy dressing line of adaptive clothing that features unique pieces of clothing designed to make dressing simpler and less of a challenge for those with special needs. For example, some items are specifically designed to accommodate feeding tubes, while others have Velcro closures at the neck to make getting dressed a little quicker. The great thing about this line is that it includes styles for kids up to 16 years old, so this is a brand they can pick and stick with as they get older.
9. Zappos—The massive online shoe retailer is the place to shop if you’re looking for stylish adaptive shoes and clothes for kids. It launched Zappos Adaptive last year in an effort to curate functional, fashionable apparel that makes life easier for anyone with challenges getting dressed. The company also emphasizes the importance of using its real clients—those with varying levels of physical and intellectual differences—in its advertising and modeling campaigns. Zappos carries a huge selection of adaptive shoes and clothes by top brands, including sensory-friendly items and pieces designed specifically for those with disabilities.
Even though there’s a good chance that we’ll see more and more brands adopting inclusive marketing efforts, it’s still not enough! One day, we hope that all of the world’s major brands will have advertisements and online campaigns featuring kids of all abilities and that adaptive clothing will be easy to find at the mall. For now, these eight brands are a great place to start if you want to support companies that focus on inclusion.