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Our customers are at the heart of every decision at M&S and that is never more true than when we are developing new innovations. We are really proud of our innovation in Kidswear and we always want to make sure it delivers that something extra for our customers. Last year, we ran an ‘Investors Wanted’ campaign where we asked children to tell us what their dream uniform would be. We had an overwhelming response from parents asking for a school uniform that was designed to help children with a multitude of sensory and  physical needs. This customer insight was the key inspiration behind out new Easy Dressing range.

After doing some research I discovered that it costs approximately three times as much money to raise a child with a disability compared to a child without impairments. Speciality clothing and equipment can be a huge expense for parents and our customers were telling us they wanted to be able to buy great value schoolwear at M&S that fulfilled their children’s more specific needs – they wanted something both affordable and accessible. 

I got in contact with The National Autistic Society to get a better understanding of sensory sensitivities and what the most common issues were. They linked me up with the Helen Alison School, an autistic school in Kent and there I was able to spend time with the children, observing how they interacted with the clothes, looking at where they had issues with internals and trims, and listening to the challenges they face when getting dressed in the morning or after P.E. 

Armed with this valuable information, the team set about developing a range that both addressed as many of these needs but was also manageable in production. Once we had our first samples we visited the Helen Allison School to again get valuable feedback from the children and also from their teachers and parents. We received some good constructive feedback and the overall response was really positive. 

The range consists of a girl’s and boy’s shirt, trousers and a unisex polo. The shirt is like our regular shirt but with an ‘easy dressing’ twist - we have added a strip of soft Velcro concealed in the button placket all the way down to the 5th button. The trousers have been simplified, removing zips and buttons and some inside pockets, and for the first time we have a ‘pull-up’ trouser through to age 16. Finally, the polo has been designed for children who need to wear a tie to school but really need the comfort of a stretch knitted fabric, so we have added long sleeves and a stand collar so the polo can be worn with a tie. Products are priced in line with the rest of the school range and 10% of the sales will go to The National Autistic Society to support the great work they do. 

It’s been fantastic to work with The National Autistic Society on this range, their passion to help people understand autism is inspiring and as a team we’ve learnt so much from this experience. Whether autistic, physically disabled or with no special needs at all we really hope these simple changes to our school uniform will help getting dressed easier for children. 

Click here to shop the range.

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