April 16, 2024
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April 16, 2024
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New Company Creates Drool Worthy Outfits

Drooling over something has dual meanings: the literal interpretation and being desirous of something. Mianzi Fashion, launched just last year, aims to provide clothing suited for both definitions of the word.

Company founder Richard Kligman’s 11-year-old son Moishy has cerebral palsy and, as a result of Moishy’s low muscle tone, he has a tendency to drool. When Moishy was still 10, he came home from school one day and Kligman realized that his son has been in a bib all day. With that incident came the search for clothing Moishy could wear and the realization that there were no great solutions out there.

“We’re trying to say that those with special needs and disabilities can wear quality, comfortable, fashionable, top-of-the-line clothing,” he said, adding that what was out there before Mianzi looked medicinal and “not like something I’d want somebody I love to wear.”

Mianzi, which means “bamboo” in Swahili and “a face of dignity and prestige” in Chinese, now produces a line of T-shirts made with eco friendly bamboo and cotton, but one version has a special insert to collect drool and help it dissipate.

“We don’t want to be different than other clothing in the sense that we want our wearers—those with disabilities, and those with special needs—to be able to wear the same clothing, the same fashionable clothing, as other people,” Kligman said. “We are the first online shopping solution where a family with somebody who has special needs can come and buy shirts for the whole family.”

This was proven to be a popular concept since before Mianzi was even open for business. Kligman turned to Kickstarter—an online fundraising platform—to start the business and raised more than $25,000 from backers throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, England, France, South Korea, and Finland.

“I knew myself, as a father of a special needs child, that this product would be great, but I didn’t know if there was a real market for it,” Kligman said. “With Kickstarter, you get a real feel for market demands. You get proof of concept, which is something I was really looking for,” he later added.

The market is potentially enormous. According to the 2010 and 2011 U.S. censuses, there are currently 2.8 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 with disabilities and an estimated 19.5 million between the ages of 16 and 64.

Mianzi currently has four shirts available for purchase, all in their Icebreakers line. The shirts have slogans like, “I’m Not Contagious,” “Autistic & Proud,” “What? You Think You’re Normal?,” and “47 Chromosomes. That’s One More Than You.”

Moishy was the inspiration behind the specific line too. As Kligman explained, when it comes to special needs kids, people tend to either stare or ignore. One day when Kligman was walking outside with his son, a teenage girl and her younger brother crossed the street to avoid Moishy and all Kligman wanted to do was scream “He’s not contagious.” Kligman said that you can’t ignore the fact that people who have disabilities are noticed, but that “People should be able to face what they have and say ‘Hey, I’m not scared of what I have and you shouldn’t be either.’”

There was some worry about the line being controversial, but the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from the parents of special needs children, many of whom Kligman met at a special needs expo in December. The goal for Kligman is to produce shirts for every disability out there and, in the next 12-18 months, nine or 10 new products will be released.

Following the success of the T-shirts, Kligman has plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign for a hoodie design with zippers on the sleeves to make it easier to pull on and off because long sleeves can often be difficult for people with disabilities.

“Really our goal is to create shirts, pants, pajamas, undergarments, coats—really there’s no end to what we can create,” Kligman said.

For more information on Mianzi, visit https://www.mianzifashion.com/

By Aliza Chasan

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