In a first for Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW), adaptive, inclusive, and expressive clothing made for people with disabilities hit the runway on Thursday May 12 at Carriageworks, presented by the Adaptive Clothing Collective. JAM the Label shone a spotlight on functional and stylish apparel on the runway, bringing it to the forefront of mainstream fashion.
JAM the Label was founded in 2019 by occupational therapists Emma Clegg and Molly Rogers. The range was designed with fashion and function holding equal weight, ensuring every garment is as funky as it is functional. Their pieces for AAFW have all been co-designed by JAM's design intern, Rachel Shugg, who lives with a disability.
After their AAFW show, we chatted with Emma Clegg and Molly Rogers, co-founders, about their journey. Let's give adaptive clothing and inclusivity the awareness they deserve!
JAM was co-founded by us, Emma and Molly, two young Occupational Therapists (OTs) working in the disability sector. We met at university while studying to become OTs and at this time, we also worked as disability support workers. We used to come together all the time and talk about how difficult dressing was for so many of our clients, and how anything that was easier to get on or take off was super daggy and not something we would want to wear as people around their age.
JAM is named after two particular young people we worked with, Jack and Maddie, hence JAM! Jack and Maddie are both wheelchair users who require the assistance of others for dressing. Jack and Maddie were forced to compromise their self-expression and personal style for comfort. After discovering the difficulty and impossibility of finding clothes that were cool enough for Jack and Maddie but still easy and comfortable for them to wear, we decided to make them ourselves. We thought, if we didn’t have to choose between function and fashion, why did they and the other 4.5 million Australians with disability?
Functional fashion means the customer’s dressing needs have been taken into consideration. It means the outfits are thoughtful, considered, and comfortable as well as stylish. Functional fashion for us at JAM means incorporating principles of universal design to create products that consider a broader range of dressing needs, therefore including a broader range of customers.
An important difference for us when we talk about functional fashion is that in every JAM product, fashion and function hold equal weight. Just because a garment may have a functional purpose, doesn’t mean it has to be ugly!
Our ‘JAM fam’ are young people who want to be able to express themselves through their fashion choices. They are provided with independence and dignity through their JAM clothes, which allows them to feel empowered and confident as they navigate their day. The JAM customer appreciates the power of fashion and believes in the inclusion of all in the mainstream fashion industry.
Inclusion is where sustainability was with the fashion industry 5-10 years ago. As the consumer becomes more educated on what they want to see with their fashion, the industry is forced to respond. Customers want their fashion to be ethically produced and sustainable, and now they want to see themselves represented and their unique needs met. Up until recently, ‘inclusive fashion’ referred to size and cultural diversity, excluding the disability community, which makes up 15% of the global population. Now that the expectation from the fashion industry is to be more authentically inclusive, they can no longer exclude such a large proportion of the population. The fashion industry is realising the power and responsibility it has to create positive change, and will hopefully continue to grow and rise to the challenge in this respect.
Having adaptive clothing showcased at this year’s AAFW was huge not only for JAM as a label, but for adaptive clothing in general. It was important to showcase that adaptive fashion is stylish and runway-ready, not just meeting a functional need. We also wanted the disability community to know that there are designers that are considering them in the design process, and that they’re being taken seriously within the fashion industry. It was also extremely significant and important for the disability community to see themselves represented on such a mainstream stage. We felt all of these were important messages for us to champion as a leader in adaptive clothing in Australia.
JAM has a great selection of essential pieces; however, our next project will be to create our first fashion-forward seasonal range of products that showcase JAM’s personality. We are looking to hire a fashion designer with disability to come onboard the JAM team to make this range a reality, and really cement JAM as a leader in inclusive fashion. We believe people with disability deserve more than essentials and basics, and to have as much choice and options as non-disabled consumers have, so we want to be able to provide as many different fashionable products for our customers as possible. We are so looking forward to bringing some more funkiness to the JAM range.
You can support JAM the Label at their website here!
If you liked this article, you might like our feature about another Australian label, AMELIA designs.