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An Adaptive Day with TEVA: How Some Brands are Adaptive and Don't Even Know It

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

A couple of months ago, I was called by a friend who is also part of the disabled community. She’s not known for having a disability herself, rather, she is recognized for being an adaptive fashion designer, which is designing clothes for people with disabilities.

For centuries, people with disabilities have been advocating for human rights and the millennial era brought in a new wave of activism that included sass, style and fashion, and I was one of those activists. As a young girl, I always loved the arts, especially fashion. I was always the girl with broken jeans, leather jackets and my favorite Dr.Martens cherry red cambridge boots. I always had an edge in fashion, trying to make a statement everywhere I went.

Paula is being styled by Elena, an adaptive fashion designer. Paula and Elena are both in a colorful studio with colorful quilts, green plants and a neon sign on the wall that says “Follow The Call of the Disco Ball.” Elena is styling Paula by being in back of her putting on a metal necklace. Paula is also wearing a black tank top with folded jean overalls, while sipping soda as she stares at the camera. Elena is wearing a white floral t-shirt with orange pants.

Unfortunately, my fashion statement often got misread for the way I walked and became filtered with questions like “Why do you walk like that?”, “Are you ever going to be normal?” As a kid, I often felt excluded from experiences and many times, those experiences included basic acts of existence like being seen as human.

According to an article in Vogue, the adaptive fashion market is expected to be valued at $400 billion by the end of 2026, yet no one really knows what adaptive fashion is. Adaptive Fashion is basically a term used to describe clothing that people with disabilities can wear because it’s specifically designed for our many diverse abilities. Whether you have a missing limb, or have skin sensitivities, or have limited foot mobility like me and find it difficult to fit into skinny jeans, adaptive fashion has all sorts of designs to fit your abilities. To be quite honest and transparent, many big labels have tried to launch equitable adaptive clothing and they haven’t fully made the cut- at least in my eyes.

Adaptive Fashion can honestly be very complicated to fully tackle and create specific items for all disabilities, yet some labels who haven’t created specific adaptive lines have actually accidentally created adaptive products. “Accidentally Adaptive” is a term highly used within the community to describe adaptive products that by no means were made to be “adaptive” or were specifically designed for the disabled community, instead they are products out in the market who are highly used by the disabled community because the product is easy to maneuver and fits the mold of being adaptive.

One of those products happens to be the TEVA Sandal. TEVA has been around since 1985, creating the original sports sandal. The ethos of the brand surrounds the promise of freedom to roam, living for moments of discovery and awe. The product itself is very simple, nothing fancy and as of 2020, TEVA’s entire product line has been made from traceable, verifiable recycled plastic. Since its first product, Teva has included two of the most pivotal components of adaptive fashion––velcro and straps.

When I was called to be part of the shoot, I was intrigued to test out the product and also curious to know if the brand had ever tried to intentionally create a sandal for people with disabilities. I figured I wouldn’t get my answer that same day so I flew out to Austin, TX to be part of the shoot. As soon as I landed, Elena, designer and founder of Abilitee, an adaptive fashion house, brought me a pair to my hotel to try them on. The first thing I noticed was how lightweight they were and how easy they were to maneuver. She brought me a couple of pairs and there were two things all the sandals had in common. They all had velcro and straps. They also all had side openings which make it extremely easy for some with limited foot mobility to be able to put on and take off. The next day we were off to shoot and that’s where I would really put these babies to test.

The first pair I wore on the first day of the photoshoot was the Teva Hurricane Drift Sandal. We had about three to four pairs to shoot each. It was me, Elena, Berlin (Elena’s partner) and another model. We were rotating the different pairs with different outfits. The vibe surrounded Austin’s natural parks and with a retro twist of disco balls and adaptive belts designed by Abilitee. Our first shoot day was at the Barton Pool in Austin, which is 358 acre park with a pool filtered by a local natural spring. Obviously, in any disabled person's mind, we know the previous statement of the “358 acre park” claims that it’s a very long walk or roll. The first pair was extremely easy to put on, but my feet kept sliding through the draft design of the sandal. I couldn’t tell if it was because my feet were wet or because my feet don't disperse my weight equally. Turns out, the sandal was sliding due to the unequal weight dispersed around my foot.

The second day of the shoot I wore a pair that called my attention the most. Since I heard of this shoot, I fell in love with the Flatform Mevia Sandal. As a teenager, I began hiding my ankles and calf muscles. Due to my abnormal gait, my calf muscles were never active throughout my life, weakening my calf muscles and making them seem a lot skinnier and weaker than then the rest of my leg. Since then, I’ve only bought and worn gladiator sandals. The Flatform Mevia’s really called my attention because they had style and so many straps along the sandal. It has a total of 5 straps in total, three in the upper part, on the bottom back side and on to wrap the ankle. This sandal had an A+ from me just on the visual aspect of what makes the shoe adaptive.

As I started to put it on, it was bit rough to get my foot in as the straps were a bit tight in material, and trying to maneuver a spastic foot with rigid straps can be 30 min task. I was able to get both sandals on my feet and did a walk test on them. They did a phenomenal job on gripping my foot evenly on all ends so that my foot wouldn’t slip. The flatform material kept my foot elevated and flat, so there was no sliding situation like the previous sandal that had a drift downward design. The only downside to this sandal would be that due to all the straps that tighten it, the sandal can feel a bit limiting to the movements of a foot since it has a pretty stiff wraparound.

I kept using the sandals after the shoot to really get a sense of how adaptive these sandals are beyond a couple hour shoot, and turns out they get a solid B from me. I think it’s important that we pridefully recognize the brands that are creating products that are universally designed for all abilities without directly marketing or realizing that their products work on people with disabilities.

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