Lady Natasha Fines believes clothing is more than just fabric as it provides a platform for self-expression and individuality; however, she noticed one oft-overlooked demographic.
Fines’ collection offers accessible designs to empower people with disabilities and help restore independence. Her overarching goal is to meld functionality and style.
“There’s just a huge gap in the industry,” Fines said. “What makes adaptive clothing adaptive is making sure that each piece is designed with a little bit of extra love and a little bit of extra thought into that everyday routine that someone with a disability will go through when they’re getting ready.”
She replaces buttons with Velcro, magnets and zippers on both sides of an item. Fines said that aspect aids people in wheelchairs.
She explained that magnets and Velcro are helpful for someone missing an arm. Fines said the clothing is also customizable to fit individual needs – or looks.
Her blouse featured removable sleeves, and Fines illustrated how it would help someone with a disability dress themselves. She said Lady Fines provides a “fashion forward” alternative to medical clothing.
“You don’t even have to have a disability, and you could still rock this,” she added.
The burgeoning designer earned her degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Fines then spent several years as a buyer for major brands.
It was then, during personal research, that Fines said she realized the industry often overlooked people with disabilities. She pitched her ideas for a dedicated clothing line to no avail.
Fines said she was offered “an amazing opportunity” in Chicago, and the relatively small-town girl thought she “made it.” After establishing herself with the company, she again pitched her adaptive apparel.
“They were like, ‘This is a great idea, but it’s not our customer,'” Fines recalled. “I’m like, screw it, I’m going to make them my customer. I decided to use up all of my savings … because that’s how passionate I am about this.”
She moved back to the area and began bootstrapping her fashion startup. Her parents also invested in Lady Fines Inc.
She is putting together presentations for fashion buyers and hopes to see Lady Fines apparel in big-box retailers. Fines said she is also working her “butt off” to open a local boutique.
“I think an in-person experience, especially for the girls who are misrepresented right now – or not even represented – for them to have that in-person feeling would be pretty awesome,” Fines said.
Lady Fines’ models
She noted that Fashion Week, which runs from Sept. 27 through 30, will serve as a coming-out party for her adaptive apparel. It will also provide a chance to showcase her models.
Fines said finding models with disabilities is challenging and requires “a lot of stalking on Instagram.” She also credited her Tampa-based talent agency and the people who share its casting calls with friends and family.
Fines said the models “came from heaven.” The company’s website highlights them through personalized videos.
One is Claire Bridges, a St. Petersburg resident who had both legs amputated in March 2022 due to Covid complications. Fines became emotional when discussing feedback from the models and their parents.
“Mia’s mom, the girl with Down syndrome, was like, ‘You have no idea how refreshing it is to see these kinds of pieces,” Fines said. “‘When Mia was growing up and going to school, I was always so worried about putting her in clothes with buttons or that she couldn’t put on herself.’”
Fines added that the mother of another amputee, Caitlin, expressed how she wished similar brands existed when her daughter was a child. “For girls to look up to models like this,” Fines said.
“And to see that you are beautiful – no matter what.”
Rebels with a Cause Foundation
Fines launched her company and its Rebels with a Cause Foundation simultaneously. The nonprofit promotes equity and inclusion in the fashion industry.
Fines said she hopes to serve as an advocate and build a community for underrepresented fashion enthusiasts. She wants people in and outside the industry to realize that “these girls are just like us, and they deserve to be heard.”
“These aren’t just pieces; these aren’t just models,” Fines added. “There is a story there.”