Swimmer Théo Curin And Lacoste Release First Apparel Collection Co-Branded With A Disabled Athlete

Many brands, including Lacoste, have released adaptive apparel collections featuring inclusive designs. As society has become more aware of the insidiousness of ableism, companies like Tommy Hilfiger, Lands End, Aerie, Billy footwear, Nike
and more have produced clothing and footwear designed with specific needs in mind—with features like zippers or magnetic closures instead of buttons, self-lacing shoes and easy-access apparel.

But Lacoste’s new collection with adaptive swimmer Théo Curin is unique in that it is co-branded with a disabled athlete—the first of its kind. Because just as important as the products a brand designs are the faces it chooses to represent them—and until now, only able-bodied athletes have had that privilege.

“I am very proud of this association with Lacoste—it’s a world first!” Curin, 21, told me. “And what I like most of all is that it is a universal collection for both disabled and non-disabled people.”

The Théo Curin collection consists of a polo shirt, a sleeveless parka, a T-shirt, a sweatshirt and a cap, all designed for able-bodied or disabled people to be able to wear.

Curin was able to be involved in every step of the design of the collection, from the choice of the logo to the selection of products, materials and colors. For example, “ I wanted to put a backpack in the collection by adding small details based on my personal experience, such as putting a very accessible pocket at the top of the bag or adding strips of fabric on the sleeves of the sweatshirt to be able to roll them up more easily,” Curin told me.

“It’s a collection that looks like mine.”

The clothes are also inspired by personal mottos that guide Curin and move him forward every day—”Follow your dream,” “Keep smiling” and “Your difference is a strength.”

“No matter the difficulties, the obstacles…you must always believe in your dreams,” Curin said. “I managed to overcome my differences and turn them into strength today.”

Curin is a quadri-amputee athlete whose lower legs and hands were amputated after having meningitis at the age of six. He took up para swimming in 2011 in Luneville, France, with the encouragement of French para swimmer Philippe Croizon.

When he was 16, Curin was the youngest French athlete from any sport to compete at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, and he won silver medals in the S5 100m freestyle and S5 200m freestyle at the 2017 IPC World Championships in Mexico City.

But Curin elected not to compete in the postponed Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games due to the classification system for swimming that has increasingly earned criticism for being, at best, complicated and difficult to understand and, at worst, inequitable—the very opposite of what the Paralympics should stand for.

Curin’s category in swimming is S5. The system classifies physical impairments on a scale from 1 to 10—the lower the number, the more significant the impairment. Swimmers with the use of both their hands were placed in Curin’s category—as a quadri-amputee athlete, he thought the advantage those swimmers would have was unfair.

Curin had hoped the classification system would change by the Paris 2024 Games so that he might compete, and two years ago he tried to take action about what he considers to be an injustice—but, he says, he came up against a wall.

When faced with the reality that he would not compete in Tokyo, however, the last thing Curin did was remain idle. He conceived of an even more singular achievement—becoming the first person in the world, disabled or otherwise, to swim the longest crossing of Lake Titicaca, about 74.5 miles between Bolivia and Peru. The frigid waters are situated 12,400 feet above sea level.

Curin was accompanied by expert swimmers Malia Metella and Matthieu Witvoet but accomplished his feat completely unassisted. Though all three crossed, Curin alone swam the historic long crossing.

Calling the crossing conditions “very difficult,” Curin even revealed that he twice thought he was going to die. “For the first time in my life, I suffered more mentally than physically, and without Malia and Matthieu by my side, I would certainly not have made it to the end,” he said. “It was an incredible human adventure that made me realize how indispensable my family was to me.”

The Paralympics may be some athletes’ apex, but Curin has discovered more meaningful ways to push himself—often competing not against other adaptive athletes, but simply against himself.

“That’s why I decided to launch the challenges that allow me to continue to surpass myself and I will continue in this way,” Curin said. “However, I wanted to [experience], in one way or another, the Paris 2024 Games, which I will be able to do as a member of the Athletes’ Commission.”

Curin even has his next challenge planned out for the end of the year—the Coronda Challenge, a 57-kilometer aquatic marathon between the cities of Coronda and Santa Fé in Argentina.

The conditions of that undertaking will be even more challenging than those at Lake Titicaca, with extreme water temperatures, strong currents and low visibility. Curin will be the first disabled athlete to take part in the event.

In parallel to his sporting challenges, Curin also hopes to push himself further in his acting—perhaps even have his own TV show—all in addition to launching his Lacoste collection and continuing to advocate for inclusivity in apparel.

“I hope it will set an example and give more and more brands the desire to develop collections like this one,” Curin said.

The Théo Curin x Lacoste collection launches on Friday, April 1.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michellebruton/2022/04/01/swimmer-tho-curin-and-lacoste-release-first-apparel-collection-co-branded-with-a-disabled-athlete/