Launched earlier this month, the adaptive platform Adaptista has already made headlines, revealing its substantial ambitions for the future of inclusive shopping and the need for legitimate accessibility. The ethical, high-end e-commerce platform follows a unique community-centric and disability-led approach by offering collaborative opportunities within the sector and supporting emerging talent.
Speaking to Adaptista’s founder and CEO, Maria O’Sullivan-Abeyratne, she discusses how she set up the platform following her personal experience and the critical importance of reshaping the current design world. “I found it incredibly difficult to find a wedding dress that would allow me some autonomy to get dressed or change my clothing during my wedding day,” she discloses. “I suffer from very low mobility with spinal osteoarthritis (and Ankylosing Spondylitis) which means it’s difficult to reach back and side zippers or buttons trying to push my mobility to get dressed. Following this experience, I returned to study fashion design and pattern cutting and that’s when Adaptista was born!”
The platform has launched with a roster of 12 brands, ranging from fashion and accessories to functional lifestyle products and O’Sullivan-Abeyratne is eager to accelerate its role in mentorship and guidance. “I have grown up with several types of disabilities within my family and know first-hand the frustrations of searching for new or interesting styles that are comfortable,” she explains. “There are fantastic efforts by fashion colleges and universities to explore accessibility, and we are working with educational bodies to help and support them with any knowledge or experience they need.”
This collaborative approach is proof of Adaptista’s function in serving not only as an e-commerce platform but also as an initiative to promote inclusiveness, especially in the educational sector. Beyond advocacy for systemic changes, O’Sullivan-Abeyratne also understands the importance of supporting student journeys on an individual level. “We are sponsoring a disabled student to begin their fashion studies with the Higher Certificate at the British Academy of Fashion Design,” she explains, “and if they choose to, they can proceed to attain their Fashion Design degree.”
After overcoming their own design hurdles with the support of web developers Glaze Digital, Adaptista made an impact as soon as it went live. “We have been overwhelmed with the love and support from all corners of the world,” O’Sullivan-Abeyratne reflects. “We will keep working to create more meaningful change, and as our amazing brands know, we are not financially driven – we have a bright inclusive vision of the future, and we aim to create a new more ethical, community focussed, e-commerce experience. We also want to create more job opportunities for disabled people.” Adaptista’s work does not stop there, however, with concrete short and long-term goals, the platform is hoping to inspire industry-wide change.
“Initially it felt like the fashion industry was solely driven by financial gain and big brand efforts seemed a bit strategic and tokenistic,” O’Sullivan-Abeyratne continues. “However, over the past 12 months, brands have made efforts to create more inclusive workplaces. This has led to designers considering the needs of disabled people after witnessing the limitations that their disabled colleagues face.”
Adaptista is currently working on its second phase, in which they will support disabled creatives and reach full AAA compliance once tech catches up to accessibility needs. But O’Sullivan-Abeyratne’s aspirations are far-reaching. “In the next five years,” she reveals, “we hope to broaden the adaptive fashion offer and to identify new and interesting ways to infuse playful inquisitiveness and creativity in all of our brands and their designers, while working with the people that need and use adaptive design to let their voices be heard.” This passion and commitment to change is encouraging to see as we strive towards a more inclusive and positive future for all.