With over three decades of experience in the apparel industry under her belt, Ophelia Kot identified the growing need for fashionable adaptive clothing in Hong Kong. For Hong Kong's rapidly ageing population, as well as patients, or anyone with a handicap or special needs, looking for fashionable yet easy-to-use clothing could be rather challenging. Moved by the story of a seamstress friend's customer who had a large tumour growing on one of his thighs, she sprang into action and set up a workshop to design, manufacture, source, and market good looking adaptive clothes that help every special-needs customer lead a productive and fashionable live. Enlisting garment workers who boast the right skills to customize products on the shop floor, Rhys, Kot's fashion brand, was born in 2018. All of Rhys' garment workers are employed locally and paid a fair wage, and their commitment to quality is the result of their shared sense of purpose and ethical labour practices.
Aesthetics and Functionality
Rhys' garments focus on both aesthetics and functionality to improve customers' quality of life. The apparel is designed to be low maintenance, as customers may only have limited ability and resources to care for their clothing. Made of light-weight fabrics, garments are also fitted with waterproof interlining extensively to ensure comfort during the hot and humid summer months. Instead of using standard Velcro tapes, which makes self-dressing easier but could potentially hurt the skin, the Rhys team adapted a self-adhesive fabric for the same purpose but is gentler to the skin. Also, Rhys apparel eases the challenges of saving time and small living space common in Hong Kong, and features other smart design details.
Besides providing practical solutions to special needs customers, adaptive apparel is also fashion. Aiming to evoke the good old days, Rhys' designers draw inspiration from vintage fashion and traditional garments, such as cheongsams, and create contemporary and comfortable adaptive reiterations for today's elderly and special needs customers. Making fashion statements and expressing individual identities have never been easier for members of the silver age or customers with special needs. Other members of the community are also empowered as they participate in Rhys' workshops that teach them to make useful accessories, such as bibs, on their own. The brand also encourages customers to contact them with product and customization ideas, fostering the co-creation of the next clothing solution for anyone who needs it.