Stephanie Thomas, Left Hand Style, Clothing, The Story ExchangeYour Name: Stephanie Thomas

Business Name: Left Hand Style, Incorporated, a styling service for women & men with physical disabilities

Type of Business: Disability Stylist

Business Location: California, United States

Twitter @Lefthandstyle

Reason for starting
During the 2006 holiday shopping season, I found an adorable London Fog -like trench; complete with pockets and a belt…for a dog. I am a pet lover and a pet parent, but seeing that coat sparked a question that still resonates today: Why is there clothing in Target for pets but not for people with physical disabilities, such as wheelchair users? If we can design and retail clothing for pets, why can’t we design and retail clothing for people with physical disabilities? At the time I was working as a morning drive radio personality, so I packed away all of my clothing and wore pajamas monogrammed The PJ Deejay for 365 days straight. During that year I passed out flyers, delivered keynote speeches, and discussed the PJ Deejay campaign daily on my radio show. The PJ Deejay campaign changed the trajectory of my career. I quit radio and started what is now Left Hand Style, inc.

How do you define success?
My goal is two-fold: Empowering people with physical disabilities with fashion styling tools and tips. Educating the fashion industry about the importance of seeing people with disabilities as fashion consumers. And showing them how to alter currrent desings to meet the need of people with physical disabilities. EMPOWERMENT SUCCESS I define success as putting myself out of business! If I do my job right, in the next five to ten years there will be no need for a disability stylist, because dressing people with disabilities (PWD) will be common place. EDUCATION SUCCESS The fashion industry will begin to acknowledge people with disabilities as fashion consumers. PWD will be able to get: Styling tips Dressing assistance Clothing designed for their bodies

Biggest Success
I have been monitoring trends in clothing for people with disabilities for over 20 years so my first real success was in 2004 when I developed a styling system for dressing people with physical disabilities. This styling system is what I use to consult designers, retailers and establish content for my blog My year as the PJ Deejay and most recently my launch of the petition to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) asking them to offer a class teaching designers about designing clothing people with disabilities. Although I’ve just started the petition in order to honor the 5-year anniversary of my PJ Deejay campaign, I’m confident that I will get 1 million signatures (or more) by February 1, 2014…even though I have less than 200 today.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My top challenge was my lack of experience and knowledge in the mainstream fashion industry. This was a real issue, because I knew I wanted to do something to help, but it wasn’t until I went back to school for a second masters degree that I learned that being a stylist is mot effective, non-threatening way to accomplish my two-fold purpose of empowerment and education.

Who is your most important role model?
Jeannine Morris of Beauty Sweet Spot. Her company provides a model for my work as an on-air disability stylist. Jeannine started with a beauty blog and eventually transitioned into an on-air analyst and segment beauty expert.