Q&A: Adapting fashion to make it more inclusive

This week we chat to Matthew Skerritt, founders of adapative clothing business EveryHuman. With one in five people in Australia having a disability, many of whom struggle to independently get dressed because of the lack of choice to date in this market, Matthew created an online platform that sells stylish adaptive clothing produced by 10 global brands.

ISB: What was the inspiration behind you setting up EveryHuman?

MS: I don’t have a background in fashion – I used to work for Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) in professional services – but I saw a problem: where fashion and disability didn’t go hand in hand, when there is every reason they should. When I put on a nice outfit, I feel confident, have a bounce in my step and feel like I can tackle the world. My friends with disabilities are no different. They want to wear clothes that make them feel amazing, and fit in with everyone else.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting the enterprise off the ground?

MS: There have been two significant challenges getting EveryHuman up and running. Starting out in December 2019, the COVID pandemic was the last thing I had anticipated. Sales dropped during March and April and we experienced inbound logistics challenges. You hear other founders saying you need to be agile when being involved in a start-up, I now realise that is exactly right.

Secondly, although we know that we have a great product, since we are the first platform to offer these types of products in the Australian and New Zealand market there is also a large education aspect to our launch. Many people who require this type of clothing do not even know that it exists; which results in them customising standard clothing or making do with current options. Our educational push is focused on our consumers, occupational therapists and disability organisations.

ISB: How quickly are global brands coming around to the realisation that adaptive fashion is an important, viable market segment?

MS: I believe we are at a tipping point, where brands are starting to realise the importance of an offering for people of all abilities. During these unusual times in 2020 where parts of society are divided, there is a real need for inclusivity and the perfect time for a brand to look seriously into the category. It is not only the right thing to do, but also good business as one in five people around the world have a disability.

We have seen a few global brands starting to realise the importance of offering adaptive clothing, and it has been great to see a number of smaller, local brands pop up over the past six months.

ISB: How have you incorporated your goal of social change into the business model?

MS: Although we sell a product, social change is the core principle of our business. Most people are able to use fashion to express themselves as unique individuals, however, many people have not had that choice. We are on a mission to allow every individual to independently express themselves and achieve their dreams by making life a little easier.

We want to try and get the fashion industry to have a more inclusive mindset when it comes to disability, whether it be when designing, representation on the runway or on the pages of mainstream magazines. We have seen the fashion industry become more inclusive with plus-sized fashion and we want to be the catalyst for brands to move in that direction for people of all abilities. We also have implemented a “T-Shirt For Change” initiative, where 100 per cent of the profits go towards supporting NFP organisations in the disability space.

ISB: What is your vision for the development of EveryHuman in the next couple of years?

MS: Our focus is partnering with some global brands in the adaptive space to build out our offering to include pieces that cater to needs we currently don’t. We would love to have some involvement at a major fashion show which will go a long way to increasing the representation of people with disabilities.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one piece of advice you’d share with those looking to turn a passion and/or worthy cause into a viable enterprise?

MS: Give it a go and back yourself! It is easy to internally tell yourself that you don’t have a viable idea. Put yourself “out there” and speak to as many people as you can about your concept. I think it is also extremely important to ensure you’re not just a business, but also a brand whose customers believe in the cause or social impact you’re striving for.