More than 3.5 million people have an autism spectrum disorder in the U.S., but until now there have been no clothing collections to meet their special needs. Tommy Hilfiger changed that.
There are many, many challenges faced by children with autism and their parents, as well as women and men on the autism spectrum. Designer Tommy Hilfiger didn’t think that getting dressed, should be one of them. He decided to do something about it. Many of those living with autism have dexterity issues, spatial and perception issues, dyslexia and some have claustrophobia. That means that buttoning a button, and zipping a zipper can be a real impediment.
Tommy Hilfiger was acutely and personally aware of these issues: “My family has been affected by autism and the experience has enlightened me to their needs”, he explains in an exclusive interview with HollywoodLife.com. “I thought – wouldn’t it be great to take our (Tommy Hilfiger) styling and make it adaptable for children with special needs.” And that’s what he did — keeping in mind not just children and adults on the autism spectrum but also people who may be in a brace, or are amputees or who are suffering from cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal conditions or other disabilities. “I wanted to help these people fit in and feel better about themselves and it makes the team here feel great,” explains the designer, who sits on the Board of Directors along with his wife Dee, of Autism Speaks, an advocacy and support group.
The Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive Collection, which debuted for kids in Spring 2016, proved so popular that the adult collection launched this past Fall 2017.
The clothing totally mirrors the iconic look of the Tommy Hilfiger brand — All-American style with a modern twist — in lots of red, white and blue, pink and khaki. However, buttons and zippers have been replaced with hidden magnetic closures and Velcro, which make shirts, pants and dresses so much easier to get into and do up.
“We talked to a lot of parents, children and educators,” Tommy says, giving insight into how he and his design team created the collection. “A lot of parents have been having to alter their children’s clothes. And that takes a lot of effort and expense.”
He and the company have received an outpouring of grateful feedback from families and Tommy has learned that his customers are especially loving pieces with athletic inspiration. “Everyone wants to look sporty, the sportier the clothes, the better they’re accepted.”“Children want to fit in and look like their peers, no matter what,” Tommy explains, “Self-esteem is the most positive thing we can do.”
Dad and customer, Billy Mann, agrees. His family has “been binging on the collection. Having options that are fashion forward is amazing,” says Mann, who has children on the autism spectrum, and is also a board member at Autism Speaks. He is especially grateful for the easy magnetic closures and the soft, comfy fabrics in the Hilfiger Adaptive Collection. “Opening and closing a button can be challenging and some kids have hypersensitivity and can’t tolerate certain fabrics like heavy denim.”
Mann, who is a Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer, says that the Hilfiger Adaptive Collection has been “game changing for parents” and he credits Tommy for being a great listener and always thinking about solutions.
To check out the collections — most pieces are under $100– go to TommyHilfger.com and click on Tommy Adaptive.
Hopefully, Tommy’s example will encourage other designers and clothing manufacturers to recognize the needs of people with challenges like autism. One in 68 children in the U.S. currently have autism and the prevalence of autism in U.S. children has increased 119.4 percent since 2000. Says Hilfiger: “We didn’t do this because we thought it would be profitable. We thought it was helpful and it’s a pleasure for me to do something positive.” Thanks, Tommy!
HollywoodLifers, are you blown away by the Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive Collection? Let me know.