People Are Awesome: She Designed A Stylish Fashion Line For Differently Abled Kids

“He viewed himself like other kids, so why couldn’t he wear what they were wearing?”

We’ve relaunched a GOOD online series, “People Are Awesome,” where we feature good people doing great things—and seek their advice, inspiration, and ideas. This week’s Awesome Person: Mindy Scheier.

Clothes for differently-abled children are nothing new—adaptive garments have been manufactured for decades. But manufactured is the right word here, as these clothes have traditionally been high on function, low on fashion—more like tools than garments.

“It’s all very medicinal and purposeful and not mainstream,” says fashion designer Mindy Scheier. “They aren’t clothes kids would choose to wear.”

Scheier is a mother of three—her middle child, Oliver, has muscular dystrophy. When he turned 8, she said he started to become fashion-conscious. He wanted to wear, say, jeans, but it was hard for him to manage the buttons and zippers. “He viewed himself like other kids,” she says, “so why couldn’t he wear what they were wearing?”

This was 2013. Flash forward to now, and Scheier is the proud founder of Runway of Dreams. Scheier took decades of fashion design experience and applied it to making stylish, adaptive clothing for kids. After extensive focus grouping with children of varying needs, she was able to hone in on specific “pain points,” aka common struggles running throughout the subjects.

There are three basic areas that Scheier and her team have focused on: easy buttons and snaps, adjustability for different sized kids, and the easiness of getting in and out of the garments. Runway of Dreams now works in conjunction with Tommy Hilfiger to produce a special line of clothing for the differently abled. Scheier says her Runway of Dreams line is among the top 3 sales areas on the website.

“It’s truly incredible to see how clothing can change kids’ lives,” she says.

Scheier is busy as ever, continuing to adapt and evolve her clothes for changing fashions and varying needs. We caught up with her by telephone to learn a little more.

Who is your hero?

My hero is my son, Oliver. He has changed all of our our lives for the better, exposing my whole family to what is important in life (and what isn't). He maintains strength through all of life’s ups and downs—it’s unbelievable. [Runway of Dreams] has really helped normalize life for him, too. He feels part of a community now, where before he felt very alone. Oliver has been exposed to so many types of disabilities, and realized a lot of kids out there have something.

What is the best advice you’ve received?

It was from one of my professors in school. I was young and starry-eyed, saw myself as the next Donna Karan. My professor told me not be too inflexible about my path. Instead I should just “let life take me where I’m going to go.” I hope that professor reads this article—they were so right.

How about the worst advice?

Many people in the course of my journey would be very negative, saying it takes so much work to start your own brand. ‘Focus on working for somebody else,’ they’d say. I didn’t want to be safe! I get what those people are saying, they’re just being cautious, but I am so thankful I didn’t listen.

What’s the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

Last week I was in Israel, meeting with designers. Me and this woman I was traveling with got in a conversation with someone else. And the other person was just so negative. Anything I said that was upbeat, they’d just be like, ‘Well this bad thing could happen or that bad thing could happen.’ It was a no-win situation! Anyway later my friend compared this person to Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live. We went back and looked at clips from the show—it was so, so spot-on! I laughed until tears were in my eyes. A hot mess.

If you could be anywhere in the world, where would it be?

In a previous life I was probably Japanese. I am just so in love with that country’s history, culture. food, everything. Plus the art and fashion is so magnificent. I’m always drawn to it.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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