Mindy Scheier, Founder, Runway of Dreams
Mindy Scheier was a fashion designer and stylist for over 20 years working for brands like the INC collection and Sak’s Fifth Avenue in New York City. But never did she imagine that a comment from her son, Oliver, would cause her career to take a left turn and perhaps lead her to what would be her legacy.
You see, Oliver was born with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. In spite of his disability, Mindy and her family treated Oliver just like any little boy growing up. Oliver, being a happy young boy struggled, though, with simple things like tying his shoes and buttoning a shirt. Then one day, while Oliver was in 1st grade, he came home after school and Mindy knew Oliver wasn’t his normal upbeat self. When she asked him what was bothering him, Oliver replied, “I just want to wear jeans like the other kids”. Mindy certainly understood. Up until that point, Oliver would wear sweatpants – they fit simply over his leg braces and Oliver could manage to put them on independently. But, Mindy was, after all, a fashion designer. Surely there was something she could do to help Oliver.
So, on that night in 2013 while Oliver slept, Mindy spent the night taking apart a pair of jeans and reassembled them with Velcro in such as a way to retain the fashion style of the jeans but also ensuring Oliver could manage to put them on and take them off on his own. Independence is something that most, if not all, people with disabilities want. And, Oliver was an 8 year old boy for Pete’s sake. He wanted to do this! So, he did!
The simple measure of a mother helping her son got Mindy thinking. If Oliver needed adapted clothing, there must be other people with disabilities who also needed similar things. Fashion and being able to choose and wear the clothing and styles every individual desires is an extension of ourselves impacting how we feel about ourselves and how we perceive others to see us. Through that simple measure of a mother helping her son, Runway of Dreams was born!
Runway of Dreams is dedicated to working with the fashion industry to bring adaptive clothing to the millions of people living with a disability. So, in 2014, Mindy set off on a journey to see where this idea would take her. She conducted focus groups with people with disabilities to better understand their unique situations and desires for adaptive clothing. She met with countless families, facilities, and caregivers of people with disabilities to observe their dressing habits and struggles to better understand their needs. She also met with fashion labels to see if they were interested in starting an adaptive clothing line and, in 2016, she announced a partnership with Tommy Hilfiger in the creation of their Tommy Adaptive clothing line. And, in June of 2016, the very first Runway of Dreams fashion show for people with disabilities was held and she continues to hold one each year. In 2018, Scheier was able to secure Runway of Dreams in New York Fashion Week. Runway of Dreams also works with Target, Kohl’s Zappos.com, and Stride Rite to help bring visibility and authenticity to their Adaptive products.
So, what about Oliver? How did this impact him? Well, Oliver is doing just fine. After that day when Mindy handed him a pair of his jeans, jeans that were adapted to his needs, an amazing transformation came over Oliver. He felt less alone and since then he has met so many kids with disabilities. He knows he’s a part of something bigger.
And, what is Mindy up to now? Well, Mindy said the most interesting thing happened while building Runway of Dreams. She started getting calls from all types of name brand industries – Proctor and Gamble, for instance, needed a person with a disability for a new product launch. She was also contacted by Delta Airlines who was also looking for a person with a disability for a new service. Mindy realized that there was a need for talent management for people with disabilities so she launched Gamut Management, a talent management company that represents people with disabilities to create a marketplace where businesses and industries can connect with PWDs. Gamut provides their members an opportunity to have a say in how brands market to them, create products for them, and represent them in pop culture.
She also started Gamut Network on YouTube. The Gamut Network is a daily digital talk show featuring people with disabilities who live in our communities.
I asked Mindy if she were able to produce the “ultimate” Runway of Dreams, what would it look like and what would it include? She responded, “We already have! This is the exclusive club to be in if you have a disability…the tables are turning! We need to get to a place where people with a disability are just people.” I couldn’t agree more. She added, “While the pandemic put a hold on production as a result of less people in stores buying adaptive clothing, it’s important to support the manufacturers by buying this type of clothing. It keeps them in business and it keeps the people wearing it in style!” So readers, make sure that you support these manufacturers and retailers by continuing to buy adaptive clothing and designers will continue to provide the latest styles!
We’re not sure what’s next for people with disabilities, but you can count on Mindy. She probably already has something planned!
To find out more about Runway of Dreams and its charitable programs, visit: www.runwayofdreams.org
Gamut Management: www.gamutmanagement.com