It was a year ago during PROJECT, Las Vegas’ annual fashion expo, when Derek Flores had an epiphany.
A buyer for Zappos’ Men’s Apparel and Denim category, Flores is ever mindful of the newest trends and breakout brands to hit the showrooms, the runways and eventually the Zappos website. But it was at one particular booth where he observed the uncommonly refined fabric of Trifecta.
It was some of the softest material I had felt in a long time,” remarked Flores. “Instantly I thought how this could work with those who have sensory issues.
This led him to brainstorm the what-ifs — the what-ifs of adopting this material for Zappos’ exclusive line of adaptive clothing. Flores then pitched the idea to Cory Kilmartin, one of the brand’s three designers, and for the next year they researched, selected, designed, created and manufactured shirts and pants until they got it just right.
Today, Flores, Kilmartin and others who’ve championed this project are excited to announce the exclusive launch of 4ward, one of three Zappos collections catering to children and adults with disabilities, ranging from sensory issues, mobility challenges and beyond.
I recently spoke with both men to learn more about their initiative to create an adaptive clothing line, what the 4ward title means, and what impact they hope to achieve within the special needs community.
What prompted the creation of an adaptive clothing line?
Derek: The special needs community has been underserved by the fashion industry and retailers for a long time, and now we are ready to change that. We want to provide clothing that is fashionable but is adaptive to a variety of needs.
What’s the meaning behind the 4ward name?
Corey: The name to us represents three underlying concepts: 1) The idea of giving those who have challenges a garment that they can move 4ward in life 2) The idea of being fashion 4ward, and 3) The physical nature of the clothes being 4way reversible (front, back, inside, out).
What clothing variations and creations did you incorporate?
Corey: We have clothes that are color reversible and can be worn front-to-back as well as inside out. Also, we’ve created the only pair of four-way reversible knit joggers in the market. All aspects of fit and comfort have been taken into consideration, such as pocket ease, wider neck openings and seamless garments.
Are you currently marketing towards specific special needs, or is it all-inclusive?
Derek: We’re not limiting it to one need or another. The new offerings are for anyone who has challenges getting dressed or just wants super soft or reversible clothing.
How many pieces are in the 4ward collection?
Corey: There are 80 pieces total, including all colorway combos.
What materials did you choose to design from? Do you find certain fabrics work better than others?
Corey: We use a cotton/modal blend with a super soft proprietary wash. The blend gives some stretch while being super breathable and some of the silkiest in the market. Moreover, the fabric is very durable, and shrinkage is minimal. These garments are well made and will last!
What are the similarities and differences between 4ward and Zappos’ other adaptive line, Independence Day Clothing?
Derek: Independence Day currently caters to tweens, teens and adults with more fashionable elements. 4ward is for kids up to adults and features more basic clothing designs.
Corey: We’re doing everyday knitwear staples while keeping the cut fashionable and wearable for all segments. Parents can wear these garments with their children, which was something we wanted to achieve.
Are there plans to expand beyond clothing and into footwear, accessories, etc.?
Derek: We really want to get this right, and if the reaction is positive the sky is the limit.
In what ways do you think 4ward empowers its wearers?
Derek: It empowers people to get dressed independently and start their day off in a more positive light.
When it comes to this initiative, what do you know now that you didn’t before?
Derek: I had no idea the time it takes those with physical or intellectual disabilities to get ready in the morning. Now, I don’t take those little things for granted.
Since working on this project, what's been your proudest moment?
Corey: As a design team, we’re so grateful to be making a difference in an industry that can be vanity driven. Creating this line was the most rewarding and challenging project to date as we understand the importance of getting this right and helping push 4ward!
To learn more about 4ward and discover other Zappos Adaptive tops, bottoms and undergarments, you can do so by clicking here.