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Aging & Society

For This CEO, the Drive to Create Stylish, Adaptive Clothing Is Personal

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Maura Horton remembers the moment clearly. Her husband, Don, a college football coach, said he’d had a rough day.

He’d been traveling for a game and, because of his Parkinson’s Disease, found that he couldn’t button his shirt. One of the team members who was in the locker room saw Don was struggling and walked over to help, buttoning it for him in silence.

“I’ll never forget the humiliated tone and look in his face when he was telling the story,” says Maura.

She knew Don would be traveling the next week, too, so she started looking online for something called “adaptive clothing,” apparel designed for people who struggle with some aspect of mainstream fashion. This was in 2009, and she wanted to find something that wasn’t too far afield from what her stylish husband would typically wear. Her search led her to websites featuring people with more sedentary lifestyles wearing clothes that weren’t made of high-quality materials. “When I went on some of these websites, I was soul crushed,” she says.  

She bought the best shirt with fastening closures she could find, had it shipped overnight, and handed it to her husband. “He said ‘you’ve got to be kidding me,’” she recalls. Besides the fact that the style left much to be desired, the closures still demanded more dexterity than he’d be able to manage consistently.

So Maura kept thinking. She’d recently purchased a cover for her tablet that had a magnetic closure. “Why can’t we do that?” she thought. She purchased some small magnets and retrofitted one of his shirts, using the magnets in place of buttons. Functionally, it was a success at first. Until she washed it, and the magnets corroded.

In time, she came up with a viable design, and, in the process, filed for four patents. She’d never intended to go into business, but, in all of her online searches, she saw the potential for fashionable adaptive clothing, not just for people with Parkinson’s, but for older adults, people with arthritis, wounded soldiers, and more. For years, she’d been a stay-at-home mom, but now she felt like she was onto something that could really help people. In 2012, she founded her company, which is called MagnaReady. “We launched one shirt in two colors, and, within a couple months, we were sold out,” she says.

Growth has nearly doubled for the company every year since, and today, MagnaReady is available in a number of major department stores and online, with lines for men, women, and children. Maura is onto something, and she’s not the only one.

In recent years, a number of mainstream retailers and brands have started selling lines of adaptive clothing. Retail and technology research firm Coresight Research describes the adaptive clothing market as “underserved,” and estimates that, by 2023, the US market for adaptive clothing will reach $54.8 billion—up from an expected $47.3 billion market in 2019.

Maura compares the adaptive clothing market today to the plus-size clothing market about 10 years ago. While still not ubiquitous, in 2019, fashionable plus-size lines are easier to find at major retailers and online stores than in the past. She expects to see adaptive offerings grow in a similar manner as the population ages. “The silver tsunami is a real thing,” she says. “I see it definitely continuing to ramp up.”

When Don passed away in 2016, Maura considered closing the company. She says that then, and now, it’s her customers who inspire her to stick with it. “You can hear the panic in their voices a lot of times,” she says. “I feel like I’ve been there and lived it. It keeps me grounded." 

Plus, every time she helps someone out, she knows she’s able to do so because of her husband. “Honoring him is the best thing I can do in this world,” she says.  

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