Petitioning J.Crew to Sell Fashionable Assistive Canes

Here’s an update on the cost of adaptive fashion piece from last week — and, in a tangential sense, the “how a single sweater led to J.Crew layoffs” story from earlier this year.

Liz Jackson, whom you might remember as the source of “an invisible body cannot be a fashionable body,” is petitioning J.Crew to sell fashionable assistive canes. In a recent Racked interview, Jackson describes how her life changed after she was diagnosed with ideopathic neuropathy:

It took a lot longer to get ready, just because everything was a slow process. I would be worn out by the time I had gotten ready, but I would look like myself, and then when I needed to go out I would grab my cane and leave. The only thing about my outfit that didn’t fit was the cane. So you work toward this end goal of being a presentable person only at the last minute to have to grab that thing and go; it destroys you every time.

Jackson decided to exchange her medical cane for a fashionable assistive cane from Top & Derby:

The difference between the old medical cane I got in the hospital and the Top & Derby cane is that when I go out, about half the time people say, “Awesome cane.” That for me is incredible. Before, it was always, “What’s wrong?” and a pathetic tilt of the head. There is no way to navigate the world as a proud person when there’s something so thoughtless that you’re forced to lean on.

For me, it was a life changer. It was the thing that allowed me to start picking up the pieces.

Top & Derby’s mission is to provide fashionable assistive tools to help people navigate the world. However, you probably haven’t heard of them unless you or someone you love needs their products. So Jackson is petitioning J.Crew to sell adaptive fashion alongside the rest of their sweaters and skinny jeans.

I was in a J.Crew and it was sort of this one wild experience. First I saw the glasses, and I was thinking to myself, “How strange is it that you actually have to buy these frames and then take it to your doctor? Why is it that glasses are the thing that are mainstream and fashionable when no other assistive product sits on your face?” Many other assistive products can be purchased without even needing to go to a doctor. I was walking past this table of their T-shirts, and they had all these spring colors. I realized my purple cane would look beautiful with them, and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if J.Crew had this seasonal line where it’s the same cane, but once a season it was a new color or a new style?” My whole vision has been, what if all the products were no longer carried in the one dreary medical supply shop and what if instead, it was a shopping experience?

Jackson was able to get in touch with people at J.Crew, who turned down her idea because it did not fit with J.Crew’s brand. You can almost hear them thinking “disability is not our brand,” but the thing is that when people think of J.Crew clothes, they probably think of something like “Preppy, clean lines, solid colors, office-appropriate, something about Nantucket, doesn’t Michelle Obama wear J.Crew?” They don’t necessarily tack “for able-bodied people” at the end of that, unless they have a reason to.

And if J.Crew sells canes, or stocks jeans for people who use wheelchairs, they won’t suddenly become “the disability store.” (This might be me being naive, but, like, Target didn’t become a grocery store just because they started selling groceries. They’re still Target, but now they make some people’s lives a little bit easier.)

Plus, J.Crew? You’re not doing very well with your own fashion line, right now. If you start selling cute, functional canes, people will buy them. There is an opportunity for you to make money here.

Here is the petition, if you are interested in signing it. As Jackson notes in her Racked interview, we don’t get to pick whether we’ll need assistive fashion in our lives. So it makes sense to ask retailers to sell affordable, fashionable clothing for everybody.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart

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