Part 2: Interview with Looking Beyond Disability

Part 2: Interview with Looking Beyond Disability

Living with any disability or chronic illness can present its set of challenges. The general market of clothes, advertising, and support has not always been created with your needs in mind. Luckily things are changing! Reboundwear and Looking Beyond Disability both seek to fill a need that has been historically unmet in the differently abled community. 

In February, Reboundwear Founder and CEO, Bimla Picot, took part in a workshop with Looking Beyond Disability. Looking Beyond Disability is a resource for parents, teachers, and professionals who work with children, teens, or adults with sensory processing disorders, and behavioral and learning challenges. Their aim is to create a united community so that people with disabilities, and those that care for them, are supported and given the tools they need to reach their full potential. 

Below you will find the second installment of Bimla’s Interview with Rosa from Looking Beyond Disability. Rosa is interviewing from the perspective of a parent with a special needs child! Please be sure to check back in for the next installment, you can stay up to date on our new blog posts by subscribing or following us on IG @ Reboundwear ! 

R: What makes Reboundwear different from other clothing brands?

B: I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I have a background in fashion. 

R: Oh wow! That makes so much sense, I was wondering how someone could not only come up with this idea, but be able to execute it themselves!

B: I worked in fashion for many years, and for many major designers like Chanel, Armani, and Valentino. I also happened to design a line of baby clothing before I had my own children, you could say I am a serial designer! 

As I was going through these struggles of dressing my family members after injuries and surgeries, I thought there has to be a better way. Because I have a design background, I was like “Okay, well why can’t I make a better solution then?” I also live in New York City, which is the fashion capital of the nation, so I had access to a lot of resources for pattern makers, fabrics, trims, production, etc. I started by asking myself questions based on my experiences, like “what was hard when my friend had a double mastectomy, and was walking around with drains? What was difficult when my son, who was an athlete, had rotator cuff surgery? What was hard with my mother as she aged?” As I asked myself these questions, it became clear that even though the issues were diverse and many in number, daily life was the same, they all needed to do the same things like get dressed and undressed, go to the bathroom, go to PT or OT, go to the doctor for an exam, there were truly more similarities than differences when I looked at the struggles across the board. 

When I was conceptualizing Reboundwear, I also realized that it would be impractical to have one type of shirt for x health issue and another for y health issue, the garments needed to be flexible in their functionality and compatible with many different health concerns. I also have a business background, so I knew that from a business perspective, I wanted to be as efficient as possible. I mean, the whole point of the clothes is that you wouldn’t have to change out of them, so one garment that could do it all was really the only solution I saw. So, I worked a lot on it, did a lot of research, and then patented my designs. 

What we say about Reboundwear is that it’s a universal dressing solution. Most people don't know what that means, no one is sitting at their computer typing ‘universal dressing solutions’ into Google, it’s not a phrase being used in conversations. But, that’s really what Reboundwear is, it’s a universal dressing solution that works for people, as we say, of all abilities. So, what that means is one garment does it all. If you need something for your upper body, you can easily dress in one of our tops for the day, and look fashionable, but still be able to go to PT comfortably without changing. Then you can even go meet your friends afterwards, and feel comfortable and confident, because our clothing looks like typical high-end athleisure wear. I found premium fabrics, because a lot of people living with chronic health conditions or disabilities have very sensitive skin, and I wanted to make sure it was comfortable for everyone. 

A lot of research went into our products, we really got down into the weeds, and tried to do as much as we could with a single garment. Obviously, I couldn’t address everything as much as I would have wanted to, but I tried to address the most common needs that we had seen across our research groups with each garment we designed and produced. So, all of our fabrics are super soft and stretchy. For the kids' clothes, we wanted to make the clothes fun and trendy, so we chose bright colors. So we tried to address both fashion and function in our design process, to help more people feel presentable and dignified, no matter what situation they may be living in. 

R: Yeah because you have to feel good in what you're wearing! If you're already sick and not feeling good, and you have to put on clothes you don’t like just because you’re sick, it adds to the troubles you're having. So, it’s a great idea and execution! There is a solution, not only for the elderly, but the differently addled, the injured, and for kids.  

When I started doing this workshop, I began to realize how disability really affects all of us. I found out that there are approximately 60 million people in the US living with disabilities, so that’s a really large portion of the population that have unmet needs.

B: They’ve been totally neglected for years! You know people told me, “I’m so embarrassed, I have to wear this or that because of my health condition.” and I just sat there thinking to myself, “you’re a human being! It is something so simple, you should be able to wear whatever you want and feel comfortable, confident, and happy.” 

And you know, not everyone is fashion conscious, not everyone cares to keep up with trends or debate over outfit options in the morning. I have a lot of my friends who very dismissively say, “I don’t care what I wear. I’m just getting dressed and going out” But subconsciously, when you actually do wear something that feels great or looks a little better, it gives you a lift! It just does! 

R: And all the products that you select, are they from New York, or from around the US?

B: We do a lot of sourcing. When I say, “where fashion meets function,” we run the company like a fashion company because we have to manufacture, so we really work just the way I had previously in the fashion industry. We source the fabrics first, we go to textile fairs seasonally to pick out new fabrics, we always try to choose things based on current and future trends, so we spend a lot of time working on fabrics.

Because of the way we construct the clothes, we have to make sure the fabrics are just right, because again, we say “we make dressing easy.” To us, that means we want our customers to buy it, wear it, wash it, and put it back on many, many, many times. So we make sure we use the best zippers, the best fabrics, the best materials, we want you to be able to wash and wear it a ton of times before it starts to show any signs of wear, if any at all. We want clothing and your dressing to be the easiest part of the day, instead of the hardest. So, that’s why we spend so much time sourcing fabrics and making the best designs. And we’re always iterating on previous designs, seeing how we can make things better, and we are adding to the collection! We have a couple of new collections that will be launching in the near future, so that’s very exciting. 

R: Aw! I’m so excited to see what you’re coming out with! Can you tell me a little bit about what doctors have been saying about adaptive clothing, and Reboundwear. Because it’s making healthcare more fashionable in a way -

B: And more efficient. Some would say we’re the pioneers in this industry, we’re a little ahead of our time. And sometimes getting people to change the way they do things is very difficult. I would say our customers are very adventurous and nimble and our customers are all about it, and the medical industry is… a little slower to come around. 

As we know, in the medical industry, time is money. There are all kinds of amazing statistics about the correlation between the amount of time a doctor has, how much the insurance will pay them, and for new doctors today, they have to fit in X number of patients a day in order to make it financially viable. Which is really tricky. 

So we tell our customers that they can wear these pants for their checkup, you don’t have to change into a hospital gown, which can be painful. I had a friend who had a surgery and she had to go for her follow-up checkup, she was still in pain, she had just had the surgery, and still had fresh wounds and stitches. When she got to the doctor, they said, “take off your pants, put on these paper shorts and go sit on the table.” She had her exam, where they manipulated the surgical area, aggravating it and causing pain (although medically necessary), and then they took her back to the dressing room where she had to put her pants back on, and it was so hard for her. I sent her a pair of pants after hearing this story and she used them for her next check-up. Afterwards she told me, “I can just unzip these! I don’t have to get undressed! It’s amazing!” 

We always say doctors are technicians, they’re there to take care of you. So it’s not that they don’t care how you feel or how you look, they really do, but they are more in charge of making sure you are physically well taken care of. However, we do have a lot of doctors now that see the efficiency and health benefits of our clothes and they have started carrying our information cards in their offices, where patients can then purchase from us directly. 

We do know that physical therapists and occupational therapists love Reboundwear. And the people who are in the Olympics and Paralyipics now, they have had injuries and broken bones and gone through rigorous painful therapies to recover back to their peak performance. With all the extreme therapies they have to do, they love that they can wear something easily for their entire day. 

B: So there are already athletes in the Olympics wearing your clothes?!

R: We don’t have Olympians wearing our clothing yet, but we do have a few Paralympians that have used our clothing. But in general, we do have many major athletes and college athletes that have used our clothing to recover from sports injuries. There are a lot of programs around the country we are hoping to onboard with where if there are children in special adaptive programs, like skating, or wheelchair programs for example, we would like to supply them with the right kind of athletic equipment. If you’re still doing some kind of exercise, you still need to be wearing comfortable shorts or shirts, just like any other athlete. 

R: Exactly! This must be so rewarding for you because you are seeing the impact of something that seems so simple but it’s not, and you’re seeing an improvement in people’s daily lives. 

I have a son with special needs and dressing is what taks us a lot of time. He is learning to do it on his own, but it takes time. And sometimes a lot of it has to do with how the clothes are designed. It’s crazy that more people don’t know about this!

Be sure to follow us on social media to be notified of the next installment of this series, where Bimla and Rosa continue to discuss how Reboundwear was built, who it is for, and what some of its applications are! 

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