Blurb from the author: I usually take many of my skills for granted until I can't use them for a while because of an injury. I better understand how those feel who were born without certain skills or who have lost them due to illness.
Have you ever woken up, put on a shirt with buttons, and were thankful that your fingers could skillfully press the buttons?
One can say with certainty that many of us take this for granted.
Usha's daughter Ivanna is a bubbly and curious girl who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby.
It affected her ability to do tiny daily chores, including buttoning up her shirts.
After this experience, Usha realized that there was a bigger problem: Many other Malaysians with disabilities have difficulty accessing easy-to-wear and fashionable clothing.
Dictionary time: Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture.
On the other hand, Usha's friend and co-founder Bernard was diagnosed with type 3 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) at the age of 2.
Dictionary time: Spinal muscular atrophy type 3 is a rare disease characterized by muscle weakness resulting from the degeneration and loss of lower motor neurons in the spinal cord and brain stem nuclei.
The two clicked right away when they met one day because they had the same idea of creating an adaptive clothing line that could target people with different skills. This idea would later manifest itself as Dawn Adaptive.
Catering for the disabled community
Dawn Adaptive was launched on June 14, 2019 and produces inclusive clothing that everyone can wear and that promotes self-confidence and self-expression.
Their first and only product, Magnetic Polo Tee, was developed to make dressing faster and easier, especially for people with stroke disabilities, the elderly with Parkinson's disease and the sick.
Photo credit: Dawn Adaptive
Since there were no Malaysian brands in this market before Dawn Adaptive, the duo was looking for many adaptive garments from the US, UK and Singapore overseas.
However, they found that an average income earner cost a bomb (RM 200 to RM 500 per piece of clothing), especially after adding the shipping costs.
"We weren't very happy with this because we believe that adaptive clothing is essential for a person who can really use it. It shouldn't be overpriced to make a profit in the business," Bernard said.
They started by looking at how much people were willing to spend and what clothing designs and types they would prefer.
Some DON Management / Image Credit models: DON Management
They did not have to look long for respondents, as Bernard previously had connections to his talent and model agency DON Management, which works with and occupies differently capable and alternative models.
Sew an integrative product together
The Magnetic Polo Tee is extremely easy to wear. Magnets are sewn on the inside of the T-shirt and you just have to bring them together.
Since there are still normal buttons on the outside, you apparently wear another popular T-shirt.
How the magnet is attached / Photo credit: Dawn Adaptive
Finding the right magnet was not easy, and the team spent valuable time and money making sure they were the right fit.
They could not be too strong, otherwise they would make tightening harder and not too weak, otherwise the shirts would open with a little jerk.
The magnets are permanent and only lose their magnetism when they are exposed to temperatures of 80 ° C and above and as long as they are not interrupted.
In the unlikely event that the shirt is torn and the magnets fall out, they unfortunately recommend buying a new t-shirt as they do not sell replacement magnets separately.
One of the few groups for which the Magnetic Polo Tee is not suitable are pacemakers, because in the worst case the magnets can cause a malfunction and lead to death.
Dawn Adaptive plans to develop clothing designs with Velcro, zippers and more in the future.
Dawn Adaptive takes the extra mile to be really inclusive and sews her T-shirt labels on the side instead of behind the neck area.
"This is because people with autism have sensitive sensory problems and these little details are very important to them to provide them with a comfortable wearing experience," said Bernard.
More information on the adaptive clothing line
To date, Dawn Adaptive has sold nearly 100 T-shirts since it was launched. The Magnetic Polo Tee costs RM89.90 and can be bought on the website and at Shopee.
The team is striving to become international and one day to become number one among the adaptive clothing brands in Asia and perhaps even in Europe.
Marketing materials that are also aimed at people with disabilities / Image Credit: Dawn Adaptive
While they currently only have the shirt for adults, they will expand the clothing line in the future and also for different age groups. Bernard said: "We have many requests for children's areas and also adaptable pants."
In addition to selling inclusive clothing, Dawn Adaptive also aims to create job opportunities for economically disadvantaged groups by helping qualified people with disabilities be part of the company's growth.
For example, the company logo was created by Loga Rajah, a talented graphic designer who was diagnosed with less mobility impairment.
"Usha believes the fashion industry needs to involve people with disabilities more, from the design process to marketing campaigns to the retail experience and customer service," said Bernard.
Bottom line: Having previously had a carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand that was so numb that I couldn't even use chopsticks or attach my watch, I can definitely see how a quick and easy magnetic clasp on clothing would be a lifesaver for those with whom I live long-term motor difficulties.
- More information on other Malaysian startups can be found here.
Selected image source: Dawn Adaptive