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Roland Mouret presents Fashion Week ode to free, sensual women

French designer Roland Mouret launched his latest collection in London on Sunday, aligning with the #MeToo movement in a parade celebrating femininity, independence and sensuality.

In the subterranean concrete lobby of the National Theatre, the London-based designer hosted buyers, journalists, bloggers, fashionistas and other Fashion Week VIPs to highlight his 2018 autumn-winter collection. Models paraded between the ranks of guests following a labyrinthine route set to retro music. Velvet corduroy dresses were worn with transparent tops; soft ties appeared nonchalantly tied around the neck; and lace socks were paired with sandals. Mouret was eager to play with contrasts to explore concepts of femininity -- and his abiding mantra "...we all dress to undress". In red and black, in pale pink or midnight blue, his models subtly revealed garters and low-cut necklines. "Roland Mouret proves that there is practicality in femininity, and femininity is a woman's greatest power," read the collection's accompanying notes.

Roland Mouret presents Fashion Week ode to free, sensual women

Mouret told AFP he deliberately chose fabrics reminiscent of the 70s -- "still the highlight of women's liberation" -- for his latest designs as he incorporated the current climate into the collection.

Bow silhouette

Spanish fashion house Delpozo, a defector from New York Fashion Week, also highlighted its latest offerings on Sunday with a slow and romantic show in the cosy setting of London's Royal Institute of British Architects. The location was an hommage of sorts to creative director Josep Font's past life as an architect. For his 2018 autumn-winter collection, the Catalan drew inspiration from French cubist artist Ines Longevial. Font found the works "radiate a harmonious femininity in shape and colour" and sought to incorporate their "simple lines and curvy silhouettes with luminous hues" into his designs.

Pink provides the basis for the collection, while ivory, camel, canary yellow, chalk blue and navy blue feature too. Shorts are cut wide, skirts long, and the coats hang down to mid-thigh. Shirts are studded with polka dots, ankle boots are sequined and dresses feature floral patterns. Meanwhile the designer has styled two types of belts: an "iconic bow silhouette" and another more "organic and floral" offering inspired by lily pads. "Artisanship of leather at its most delicate expression," proclaims the collection's literature. (AFP)

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Photos: Roland Mouret / Catwalkpictures

Los Angeles - It seems Adidas will stop at nothing until it takes the top spot as the 'go-to' sportswear shoe brand. The iconic three-striped label recently rolled out an exclusive fashion, sports, and music event in downtown Los Angeles to gather both sports fans and street wear aficionados.

Adidas hosts the event 747 Warehouse St. over this past weekend for two days. The shoewear brand gave out tickets through a raffle format through email. A select few were able to attend the event and also have the chance to enter shoe raffles, engage in basketball all-star themed events, and also see musical artists such as Kanye West and Kid Cudi in concert. The event embodied a space bringing together innovative ingenuity centered on both sports and style.

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The shoes that were raffled off included Futurecraft 4D, AM4747, AM4 London, AW Bball, Crazy BYW X, Crazy BYW, Dame 4 Bape, Harden Vol 2, and Y-3 BYW Bball. The shoes ranged from 150 to 420 dollars in price, according to the website. The shoes varied from stylish basketball shoes with a monochrome palette as well as camouflage patterns, vibrant prints, and more. For attendees that entered the shoe raffle, Adidas would text them which shoes they had the opportunity to buy that were available exclusively through the event.

Adidas host 747 Warehouse St event as a success in downtown Los Angeles

Various attendees were also able to participate in a "dunk challenge" cam, observe celebrity basketball games, and visit the warehouse full of exclusive merchandise. As the first event of its kind for Adidas, it seems that the brand has moved towards creating a different image for itself. By creating and promoting this event, the brand garnered a big response on social media with various attendees posting, tagging, and hash tagging the brand.

Adidas followed up with guests by commenting and liking their posts, showing a true engagement. A couple weeks ago, Adidas showed similar behavior with its video campaign. As the shoe brand continues to move forward and create a buzz, it'll be interesting to see how the label fares and grows against other popular shoe brands such as Nike.

E-commerce brand Vip.com just announced a new partnership with both London Fashion Week and the British Fashion Council.

The Chinese e-tailer is the first from its country to become an official sponsor of London Fashion Week. Vip.com will work with British brands to help them launch on the site and expand their markets. "The fashion market in China is extraordinarily sophisticated and fast paced, and hungry for new design talent," Jenny Jioe, Managing Director of Fashion at Vip.com, said in a statement. "Our consumer is aware of London's creative pedigree, and ready for both news and product. I know from first-hand experience that the brands in London, with all their energy and unbridled creativity, are precisely what we are looking for."

Currently, Vip.com stands as one of China's top three e-commerce retailers. The site has annual retail sales of 11.2 billion dollars according to a statement released by the company. This site also states it has 57.8 million active customers and over 335 million orders in 2017. As the site is based in a different market, the partnership provides a great opportunity for London Fashion Week and its brands. "What they have is incredible products that a fashion-forward Chinese consumer is going to love," Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, said in a statement. "Our role is to shine a light on these businesses and work with our partners at Vip.com to introduce these brands to a highly engaged audience in China."

Supreme Corporation just announced a new collaboration with Volt Smart Yarns to produce a new kind of material. Together, the two teamed also with JRC Reflex for a specialty smart yarn to create a new innovation for fashion and technology.

"Supreme Corporation's partnership with JRC REFLEX truly combines best-in-class reflective and conductive patented technologies to deliver a smart yarn that is pushing the capabilities of fashion and technology," Matt Kolmes, CEO of Supreme Corporation, said in a press release. "We are incredibly proud that the debut of our reflective VOLT Smart Yarns has helped lead the conversation about the future of fashion and technology at Première Vision Paris. Supreme Corporation and JRC REFLEX continue to develop and advance high quality products that reflect its shared vision for the future of wearable technology and result in better experiences for users of wearable technology and sport textiles."

The new reflective seat yarn was unveiled at Première Vision Paris, the leading exhibition that showcases innovators of fashion. This year, Volt Smart Yarns was able to debut the new product in the Wearable Lab section of the exhibition. As the technological space of the exhibition, the lab showed off the yarn with a polyamide code that is covered with a coating of reflective glass microbes. This allows for the yarn to be conducive for smart textiles as well as sportswear.

Administering the Kiss of Life to New York Fashion Week

The nod to emergency services’ uniforms in Raf Simons’s collection for Calvin Klein could have been a metaphor for New York Fashion Week in its entirety. In CPR, the traditional ABC rule is Airway. Breathing, Chest compressions, and unfortunately, for Fall 18 the task of loosening up her clothing and resuscitating the victim was performed again by a passing stranger. Confronted by a fashion week in distress, with New Yorkers pretending not to notice, the Belgian is preserving the American Dream.

As Bruce Weber’s portfolio of all-American adventure evaporates like mist from the Long Island surf, and the velvet rope that linked the fashion industry to Hollywood smolders, and buzzier labels like Delpozo, Altuzarra, Thom Browne, Rodarte, Proenza Schouler and Tome flee to European fashion weeks, the city is left with a club of distinguished colonels polishing their medals and waxing nostalgic about the old days to the music of Cole Porter. At her final show Caroline Herrera was clapped out––to use a corporate term when an employee leaves a company––by a parade of crisp white shirts on the runway, collars popped.

A bullish lack of vision

In a globally-thriving luxury market the big American brands appear risk-averse and meek. The costume of capitalism––pea coats and polo shirts, insignia, crests, logos, and loafers––has been revisited in Coney Island Circus Sideshow-style by Gucci or clinically observed through a normcore filter by Vetements while American houses remain occupied with taking themselves terribly seriously. New York proudly ushers in the fashion month as a buttoned-up, pomaded Poindexter in business casual. It disavows newness in favor of classics based on hollow tradition and corporate-corroborated data. The irony of Simons presenting his acclaimed Calvin Klein show in the former American Stock Exchange Building on floors strewn with popcorn is cutting.

Administering the Kiss of Life to New York Fashion Week

While tumbleweed blows through Donna Karan, and Michael Kors trots out Melania Trump clones, and Robin Givhan of the Washington Post comments of Ralph Lauren, “One sometimes wonders if the design studios at Ralph Lauren are hermetically sealed. Do the windows open? Can any fresh air get in?” we are left hoping that CEO Steven Kolb, and key members of the CFDA, have been summoned around a conference table, and are at least discussing a pacemaker.

Kill your darlings

Recent successful designer placements have shown that hired creative talent doesn’t need to demonstrate a close affinity with an established house to successfully continue its legacy for a new generation. Should a house like Donna Karan languish because there can never be a second Ms Karan? Riccardo Tisci had little in common with Hubert de Givenchy but it didn’t stop him reinventing his house for the millennial. Pre-Klein, Simons had already facilitated Dior’s successful rebound after the house’s expulsion of predecessor John Galliano. Yves Saint Laurent’s soigné, urbane wildchild would not even have bought her drugs from Hedi Slimane’s grungey skulking wasted groupie but sales catapulted during Slimane’s four year tenure. Flamboyant showman John Galliano couldn’t have been more diametrically opposed to the reclusive artiste Martin Margiela but his manipulation of the maison’s manifesto over the last three years has been respectfully irreverent which, according to the Business of Fashion, has led to double-digit growth.

Passion and Profit

Renzo Russo, the brains behind the Galliano/Margiela merger, said of Maison Margiela, ‘It’s a niche brand. I want to have product with real passion, not become the biggest brand in the world.’ BoF goes on to reveal that Renzo “doesn’t anticipate that it will more than double in size from its current position (160 million dollars versus 5 billion dollars in revenue for a mega brand like Chanel).” Placing passion before profit, now that’s bullish thinking. Perhaps the struggling American houses must begin to accept that a creative director’s viewpoint should not be reduced to how well he understands your dna or how tenderly he will handle the archive. He’ll pick it up as he goes along, free from micromanaging, and he should be granted permission to kill your darlings in order to allow a new dialogue to open up around the brand. The result will be an authentic response to a house’s story rather than a memorized but forgettable soundbite.

Cultural appropriation done right

Bringing in a creative from outside the culture of the brand, rather than being a recipe for disaster, can be a life-giving force. It’s cultural appropriation done right. The outsider can revisit history, plucking and discarding and reassembling its codes in the most unexpected ways. Simons received criticism for the surprising decision to place the Kardashians in his ad campaign for Calvin Klein underwear, but it was January’s most viewed ad on Youtube with 15.4 million views which, if it translates to sales, affords him the space to continue his artist collaborations and subversive vision of modern America so appreciated on the runway.

The generation gap

Simons described the meaning behind his Calvin Klein collection as “an allegory for a meeting of old worlds and new worlds” which summarizes what’s missing on the NYFW runways. This generation gap between the glorious past and an uncertain future is echoed in Robin Givhan’s comment about the Ralph Lauren collection being “all legacy and tradition and not an ounce of fun.” So, adjusting the figures, could fun be figured in? One wonders what would happen if free agent Riccardo Tisci was drafted in to Donna Karan. What would a less cliché version of woman-friendly dressing look like at Diane von Furstenberg––could we entice Simone Rocha? How about lining up in the wings British wunderkind Matty Bovan for when Anna Sui retires her velvet and sequins? Instead of Gigi Hadid for Tommy Hilfiger. let’s try a real designer, say, Juun J, and see what he would concoct whisking together stateside staples of denim, streetwear and logos? Craig Green’s military-sharp tailoring and bold geometrics could be defibrillator paddles on the chest of the flatlining Michael Kors…Beeeeep beeeeeep, “Clear!”

New York Fashion Week, you’re fading fast. It’s time to call for emergency back up.

Photos from Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren via Catwalkpictures

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Rainbows and retro pieces: Bailey bows out at Burberry INTERACTIVE

From classic check baseball caps to shell suits, Christopher Bailey raided the Burberry archive for his final collection at London Fashion Week on Saturday, while looking to the future with the rainbow flag.

Bailey bowed out after more than 17 years at the British fashion house with a collection drawing on street style and highlighting gay rights, lit only by spotlights in a dark, club-like venue. The once ubiquitous caps in Burberry's signature beige, black and red check pattern -- so popular in the 1990s that the brand began to suffer -- returned to the catwalk alongside 80's style shell suits made of silk. There were the classic trenches which Bailey has repeatedly reinvented as he turned Burberry into a luxury brand, as well as colourful knits layered under sheer t-shirt dresses, and maxi skirts worn with oversized hoodies and trainers. "I wanted it to be a reflection of Burberry's past, our present but also my great excitement to see what the future holds for Burberry," the 46-year-old said backstage.

Click through the slideshow to take a look at the last collection of the designer.

Bailey will formally step down on March 31 but will work with Burberry on the transition until the end of this year. His replacement has yet to be announced, but rumours put Phoebe Philo, who recently left Celine, in pole position. "The next person that has the privilege of coming into my shoes is incredibly lucky and I know they are going to do wonderful things and they will flourish," he said. A flash of rainbow colours ran through the collection, a reference to the internationally recognised gay pride flag which Bailey incorporated into the signature check or in bold designs. There was a rainbow cashmere turtleneck sweater, rainbow puffa jackets, and the show culminated with a gorgeous rainbow faux fur cape worn by model Cara Delevingne.

Pioneer

Bailey became the first openly gay head of a company on London's benchmark FTSE 100 index when in 2014 he was named chief executive, a job he combined for a time with his long-running position as creative director. He dedicated the final collection to LGBT groups around the world, saying before the show: "There has never been a more important time to say that in our diversity lies our strength and our creativity." Earlier, British designer Jonathan Anderson showed a playful collection to mark ten years of his J.W. Anderson label, that for the first time brought together men and women's clothes.

Fabric donut shapes grew out of sleeves at the wrist and arms, while the men wore key rings of toy donuts on their belts, marking what he described as naive optimism. He returned to a paisley pattern from his first collection for a blouse with layered soft ruffs at the neckline, while elsewhere there were loose dresses with dropped waists and fabric ties by the knees. "We've been going for 10 years, now we have to go forward in an optimistic way, to make it exciting again," said Anderson, who is also artistic director of luxury leather brand Loewe. (AFP)

Rainbows and retro pieces: Bailey bows out at Burberry Photos: Burberry AW18 /Catwalkpictures & Burberry
Will the social media bubble burst at New York Fashion Week?

Clamoring into the venues at New York Fashion Week, plenty of different industry types can be found including editors, buyers, stylists and social media influencers. Once simply known as bloggers, Pixlee has defined social media influencers as follows: A Social Media Influencer is a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. A social media influencer has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.

In this case, the industry in question would obviously be fashion. Back in the days of New York Fashion Week at the tents at Bryant Park, editors could be heard asking “What’s a blogger?” Those were the days when seating at Fashion Week was much more limited and strictly industry personnel. Front rows were dominated by Condé Nast and Hearst editors, and a few A-list celebrities sprinkled in.

How much longer will social media culture prevail at New York Fashion Week?

Looking at the seats of Fashion Week today, however, the types of attendees have changed. While there is still a considerable amount of traditional industry personnel, most of the seats are dominated by social media influencers. These Instagram-sensation youths boast social media followings of in the four, five, and six figures. Some, like Aimee Song of Song of Style, boast followings well into the millions.

Social media influencers are expected to help bring in a certain amount of audience and also lead to sales for clothes. Like all things business, this year it has been questioned if the social media bubble will burst soon.

After the ten day festivities that were New York Fashion Week: Men’s and New York Fashion Week combined together for a ten-day affair, the answer is clearly not anytime soon.

In a recent report released by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, it was revealed that Tom Ford generates an average of 800 percent more online impact during Fashion Week than any other time of the year. This is in part due to social media influencers, such as Gigi Hadid, who walked his show. While traditional media still remains the most important source of coverage for runway shows, social media has still helped brand’s Media Impact Value.

Influencers made up 36.1 percent of New York Fashion Week’s Media Impact Value, more than any other category including traditional media and consumers. However, of all the other major Fashion Week’s, including London, Milan and Paris, New York is the only one where influencers have the highest Media Impact Value.

It can be argued that New York has sold out to the social media crowd, but if they are the ones helping sell the clothes, then you do what you have to do to see your return on investment. The cost of runway shows can be extraordinary, sometimes costing up to 1 million dollars between venues, production and paying models. If social media influencers can help recoup that investment sooner rather than later, of course they will continue to fill the seats of Fashion Week.

While this generation of Instagram influencers has grown to rule at New York Fashion Week, there’s the question of what’s next once they’ve served their time. Vincent Lane, editor-in-chief of the Garnette Report, says “[influencer culture] will change definitely, but a new wave will come.”

He’s not the only one who shares this sentiment. At the end of December, Fashionista posted an article titled “17 Fashion Influencers to Watch in 2018”, naming the new crop of “it’ kids, which included Gigi and Bella Hadid’s brother Anwar Hadid, Estee Lauder’s beauty director Violette and Proenza Schouler and Céline model Selena Forrest. The next generation is already receiving their crowns and being ushered onto their thrones.

Even notable fashion designers realize that these Instagram kids have staying power, as long as they take cues from the previous generation. “They can last a long time if they educate themselves on who comes before them,” says fashion designer Stevie Boi. “If they don’t, they will be ended by the greats.”

Stevie Boi, who boasts an Instagram following of over 71,000, also considers social media important to his business like most designers nowadays. When asked how essential he thinks social media is to being a fashion designer nowadays, he said, “It’s important [because] interacting with your supporters is important and will keep you grounded.” Before clothes even hit the stores, designers can tell what will do well based upon social media reaction.

Lane and Stevie Boi’s sentiments about a next generation coming along were also echoed by the influencers themselves. Joseph Knoop, who boasts a Pinterest following of over 3,400,000, says, “Influencers are here to stay, but like anything else the faces and names will change.” He added that, “If you think about it, influencers have been around for ages. Celebrities, athletes and rock stars have been the influencers of the past. We are the new rock stars, we are the new celebrities. People relate to us on a deeper level.”

Influencers are considered even better marketing faces than celebrities because they are seen as real people. According to Mediakix, advantages of social media marketing include the ability to target specific online audiences and influencers have a different kind of relationship with their followers. While influencer marketing is still a young industry that is still being optimized, it is clear that the social media era isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The bubble has more expanding to do before it will burst, so we can expect more and more influencers at New York Fashion Week.

Photo: Pexels

Patrick Church launches at Opening Ceremony

Artist Patrick Church has been continuing to make a name for himself in the fashion industry. While Church is not a designer in a typical sense, he's found an audience and customer for those who wanted his custom artwork on their clothes, shoes and accessories. Last year, Church launched his own e-commerce store on his website, and now off the heels of New York Fashion Week, his collection has arrived at Opening Ceremony.

At a presentation this week at Opening Ceremony's store on 35 Howard Street, Church decided to do a live format of him painting a single bias-cut slip dress on a live model that would be part of his new collection. As the first store in the U.S. to house his pieces, the entire experience was truly one-of-a-kind.

Patrick Church launches at Opening Ceremony

Multimedia artist Patrick Church debuts at Opening Ceremony with live presentation

Beginning at 6 o'clock, Church with paint materials, white dress and model in hand went to work to create one of his unique designs. He opted for this original presentation format because he wanted to do something intimate, heartfelt and simple, as though you were watching him paint alone in his bedroom. As part of the presentation he got a live opera singer to perform arias including Habanera from Carmen and O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi.

"The opera music heightened the experience for both me and the audience. We each shared this experience together," Church said. "It felt empowering to be so vulnerable whilst people watched my often private process of working. It was though time stood still for an hour whilst this performance was happening, which I think is a remarkable thing to do in a city as crazy as New York."

The artistic process is a difficult and technical one for artists, and when the presentation first started, Church had to get used to the idea of people watching him work. "It was completely terrifying at first," he said. "But, as that began to subside it began to feel powerful and exciting."

Patrick Church launches at Opening Ceremony

For the entire hour, Church became enthralled painting his signature exaggerated feminine faces on this dress, lost in translation as he was absolved with his work. "I was solely focused on the process, I tried to completely block what was going on around me and focus on the act of applying the artwork onto the garment, any distractions would have interrupted the flow of my work," he said.

Although he's found his first official retail partner, Church is more focused on staying true to his work than expanding to more retail doors. "I just want to keep pushing myself creatively, but still staying true to the essence of my work, and to have lots of fun with it," he said.

As Church continues to operate on the boundaries between art and fashion, his audience is expanding. Opening Ceremony won't be the last retailer to recognize his talent.

photo credit: Ross Collab

The Boston Globe published a bombshell expose on Friday accusing more than two dozen professionals in the fashion industry, among them legendary photographer Patrick Demarchelier, of sexual misconduct.

The paper's Spotlight team, which in 2002 unveiled widespread sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Boston, said more than 50 models had detailed alleged misconduct they had experienced, from touching to assault. Collectively, they made credible claims against at least 25 photographers, agents, stylists, casting directors and other industry professionals, the Globe reported.

They include Demarchelier, fellow photographer Greg Kadel, who has worked for Victoria's Secret and Vogue, and stylist Karl Templer, who has worked with Coach, Zara, and Tommy Hilfiger.

The Globe said all of those accused had denied the allegations against them. Nevertheless, glossy magazine empire Conde Nast, whose company includes Vogue, had said it has stopped working for now with Demarchelier and Kadel. The Globe said one of Demarchelier's former assistants complained about relentless sexual demands, to which she eventually submitted, fearing that she would otherwise endanger her position.

Six other women accused the now 74-year-old Frenchman of unwanted advances, including thrusting a model's hands onto her genitals and grabbing another model's breasts, the Globe said. Demarchelier did not immediately respond to an AFP request to comment. He was quoted by the Globe as saying the complaints against him were untrue. "People lie and they tell stories," he said.

The sexual harassment watershed engulfing the United States has already rocked the fashion industry, with allegations of misconduct seeing photographers Terry Richardson, Mario Testino and Bruce Weber barred from collaborating with Conde Nast.

The magazine empire has issued a new "Code of Conduct" to include bans on alcohol on sets and the use of models under the age of 18 without a chaperone present. Nudity or "sexually suggestive" poses are to be agreed on beforehand. The Globe said some models wanted to expose serial predators while others wanted new legal protections and radical reform in an industry they say left them feeling exploited. (AFP)

Fashion photographer Jerris Madison thought his titanium rod leg spelled the end of his glamor days when doctors amputated his leg four years ago in a battle with bone cancer.

But in 2016 designers Alleles, a small Canadian company, spotted a photo of him wearing his prosthetic on Instagram and sent him their latest product for him to try out: one of their dazzling, colorful array of prosthetic covers. "When I opened the box, I felt like it was Christmas," 45-year-old, Los Angeles-based Madison told AFP. "Having that leg cover really boosted my self-esteem," he said. Walking around in just a bare titanium rod used to make him feel self-conscious. "People would stare and know I was an amputee. Now, they look at me as a walking piece of art."

Madison isn't the only person with a disability who has seen their daily life improve thanks to a growing market of products designed to make things easier, but also look chic and stylish at the same time. From now until September an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt design museum in New York is showcasing some of these new products, from the low- to the high-tech. "In the last few years there has been a proliferation of new design, very functional and esthetically desirable products for people with all sort of disabilities," says Cara McCarty, curator of the exhibition.

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Besides the tattooed-style covers made by Alleles, which start at $375, the exhibition shows Nike "FlyEase" sneakers, first made for a student with cerebral palsy, with a wraparound zipper and adjustable strap to make getting them on and off easier. There is also a walking stick, made in the color of your choice, which can be propped up easily against a wall without falling over, on sale for around $100.

For everyone

A hearing aid looks like a giant earring. A bracelet connected to a smart-phone GPS app which guides the blind and tracks obstacles above the knee. Another item is a jacket, included in a new clothing line for disabled children carried by Target, that comes apart at both sides making for easy wear. The key to success for lots of these products, says Caroline Baumann, director of the museum, is that they are so practical. When Target designers conceived of the jacket "they were thinking about the child on the autism spectrum that might have difficulty putting on their jacket, but what they are finding is that people of all abilities are buying that jacket," she told AFP. "I would love that jacket for my three-year-old because its a fight every morning to put him in his parka," Baumann laughed.

Keith Kirkland, a former designer at Calvin Klein who co-conceived the vibrating GPS "Wayband" bracelet, agrees. If the bracelet was tested on the blind, the idea in launching it for sale later this year, is that "anyone" can pick it up "to figure out which way to go." More cross-board appeal also means products can be more affordable. "A lot of times the reason the product is so expensive is because you have to amortize that cost over a much smaller market," Kirkland said.

Breaking down stigma

Designers are also eying an aging population, which bring their own disabilities, as another source for market expansion. "One out of three people from the age of 62 has some kind of visual impairment and that aging population is supposed to double by 2060," says Kirkland. Matt Kroeker, whose small Canadian firm Top & Derby created the non-falling walking stick, says the idea is to create products that aren't simply practical but which people enjoy using. "It's just like glasses who were utilitarian until the late '40s and became more fashionable after that," said the entrepreneur, who has also designed a range of compression socks in more exciting colors than the usual black and brown.

But if these products are sexy, few are widely available in retail outlets. Most are sold solely online. "The biggest barrier right now is people want to buy these products but the companies responsible for distributing or selling to the end user are very apprehensive," Kroeker explained. "There is a mentality that people don't really care about well-designed, thoughtfully-designed home healthcare products and we are trying to change that," he said.

Madison also hopes to help change attitudes by giving his prosthetic leg cover its own Instagram account. "It is about breaking down that stigma, so you are no longer hiding a hearing aid or hiding a prosthetic leg. You are saying 'I am more able with this tool that has been designed so well, and I am not embarrassed about it'," says Baumann. (AFP)