We wake up in the morning.
We open our wardrobes.
We chose our outfit for the day.
We get dressed.
Pretty basic routine, right? Well, not for everyone…
If you know HÍDAS and me, you know that I strive to create fashion that makes this world a better place. I talk a lot about the social power of fashion, fashion as a form of communication, and how clothing impacts our self-confidence, helping us convey messages and tell stories.
A few years back I was participating in a photoshoot for Forbes 30 under 30.
I was asked by the directors to bring along some outfits for the other participants to wear. As I arrived, I observed the people around and immediately spotted one, who was, without doubt, the best dresser in the room. This man was Ziv Shilon -an Israeli entrepreneur, lecturer, and social activist. Ziv was severely injured in a military operation in 2012, where he lost his left hand and a lot of the sensation in his right hand.
After complimenting his choice of outfit, we began to try out clothing options and explore the best style for the photoshoot. As I was helping him to take his jacket off and wrap the scarf around his neck, it hit me — this outstanding, successful man needs me to get dressed.
This realization struck me like a clap of thunder.
Ziv then told me that for ten years, his dream was simply to be able to get dressed by himself. I was so eager to give him that possibility.
And so I worked on designing a buttoned white shirt, suitable for work conferences and lectures, custom-made for him and his physical needs.
When he first tried it on and buttoned it up, his smile nearly leaped off his face.
For me, this was the first encounter and attempt in designing accessible garments, which definitely triggered a change of perspective in what inclusivity in a fashion meant to me so far. Till then, I truly believed my brand had it all when it came to inclusivity - driven by humanitarian motives, offering clothing for varied body types, religions, and cultures.
As my talk with Ziv deepened, I suddenly noticed a huge problem in today’s fashion industry- it is not accessible and inclusive enough for people with physical disabilities, and it disables them from enjoying real fashionable clothing independently. Together, we brainstormed possible ways to approach this issue, and to mainstream inclusive fashion while empowering people with disabilities, enabling them to dress-up independently in high quality, innovative, chic fashion.
And here enters Vital - my dear friend. Vital, like her name, is full of life and energy. She has red curly hair, a gigantic smile, and bright hazel eyes.
She is a sportswoman. A Latin dancer. A winner of several medals and prizes in world and European championships. An actress. A model. A motivational public speaker. A social change-maker and entrepreneur. And, she’s in a wheelchair.
Vital and I met through the ROI young Jewish leaders community a few years ago and connected instantly. I, like so many others, was captivated by her exciting spirit and the little drops of magic she spreads while rolling.
Having spent most of her life in a wheelchair, Vital's main motive is to create a more inclusive and accessible reality for people with various abilities in all spheres of life. Based on her rich experience and deep understanding that accessibility makes all disabilities disappear and inclusion is the main ingredient of an equitable and thriving society.
I immediately felt that we speak the same language and share the same vision, and moreover – that we share a strong passion not only to dream but to fulfill. Not only “to talk the talk” but to walk the walk (pun intended) and to set an example. Me - through my designs and humanitarian fashion agenda, and Vital – through her activism, public speaking, and social initiatives.
We both aim to increase people’s familiarity with fascinating human stories in order to ignite a more collaborative mindset and spark new conversations about sensitive and controversial topics.
When watching Vital dance, you suddenly realize that the human spirit has no limits. Through her dancing Vital loves to demonstrate how even things that might seem out of reach to us at first - are indeed possible.
Last week Vital and I met on Instagram live to discuss art as a tool to promote social change. Her approach is to smash stigmas about people who have physical disabilities by normalizing their presence in the public eye (media, arts, etc.) and shifting the focus from the so-called "disabilities" one has, to one’s various abilities.
Through my fashion, I aim to do the same.
These encounters were my call to action- triggering me to create an inclusive fashion line that fits BOTH people with and without physical disabilities, by using exclusive therapeutic textiles and tech solutions (zipping, buttoning) that compliments everyone.
We all deserve the right to equal opportunities.
In this upcoming 2021, I wish you to be brave and curious, to live in full acceptance of yourself and of others around you, and enjoy everything life has to offer you. Or as Vital calls it: to dance your life through all the storms.
Join us, while we continue to break all barriers.
Michal & The HÍDAS team