Social Surge is a company that is dedicated to making the fashion industry more inclusive to different body types. In response, the so-called “adaptive fashion industry” has been growing to meet the needs of those with physical disabilities or medical needs. Social Surge is a brand that creates clothing that appeals to all races, cultures, orientations, gender identities and physical appearances.
Social Surge is launching the first-ever universal fashion line that doesn’t segment consumers by their appearance or abilities. These garments are designed to be worn by people who use wheelchairs, are blind or visually impaired, have limb differences and other disabilities, or no disabilities at all. Every outfit is sustainably made using organic cotton, fleece, and recycled polyester.
Meredith Aleigha Wells is the driving force behind Social Surge. A Chicago-based actor, singer, dancer, writer, and content creator, Meredith was diagnosed with autonomic dysfunction in 2015 and told they would likely never dance again. However, Meredith went on to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Musical Theatre and write, produce, perform and tour their original one-person musical “Dysfunctioning Just Fine” about the whole ordeal. Meredith has toured nationally and internationally as a performer making appearances at Dance St. Louis, Symphony Hall, Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Luminous Festival in Beijing, China. Meredith believes becoming disabled has reinvigorated their practice and forces them to reflect daily on why they chose a life in the theatre. They are grateful for their illness and passionate about giving back which is what lead them to co-create Social Surge.
Meredith recently discussed the company via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): When did you first realize that you wanted to get involved in the fashion industry and how did you break into the industry?
Meredith Wells (MW): As an actor in the early stages of your career, you get asked a lot about what your backup plan is. I usually tell people I don’t have one because the industries of all my other interests are just as competitive; fashion being one of them. It wasn’t until the pandemic and the shutdown of the theatre industry that I even considered pursuing a complimentary career in fashion but, things aligned, and I was at the right place at the right time. As a nonbinary and disabled person, I’ve always loved fashion, but that love hasn’t always been reciprocated. My frustrations with fashion and clothing came to a boiling point around the same time I became connected with collaborators, so I decided to do something about it. Together we created Social Surge, a universally designed, ethically sourced, and sustainably made clothing line for all. We launched our Kickstarter this past Monday.
MM: You started out as a dancer, so what drew you to that and what styles of dance are your favorites?
MW: Well, I still dance. I’m actually working on a dance film right now for Chicago’s CounterBalance festival. I was put into dance classes when I was young, like many young children. I picked dance back up in middle school when I discovered musical theatre and got “bit by the bug”. I have been dancing in that capacity ever since. However, If I’m being honest, prior to my diagnosis, I was really more of what musical theatre performers would call a “mover” than a dancer. Meaning, “Fake it til you make it” was my mantra and my acting and singing chops generally made up for whatever I lacked in the dance department. That all changed in college when I became disabled and began using a wheelchair. I had a lot to prove. Becoming disabled reinvigorated my practice and brought me closer to my why. It motivated me to work diligently towards becoming a bonified triple threat. It wasn’t until being invited into a dance major improv class (I was a musical theatre major), that I started considering and training for the possibility of pursuing concert dance work professionally. My first job out of college was touring with a repertory company. The job made me a much more versatile dancer across many styles but musical theatre, contact improv, and contemporary are probably my favorites.
MM: How did your illness subsequently shape your life?
MW: Chronic illness taught me that health and one’s current quality of life are never guaranteed so you can’t procrastinate on chasing your dreams no matter how big or small they might be – Life is too short for imposter syndrome. Becoming disabled also shaped my career in many ways as well. I never would have pursued dance in the way that I have if it weren’t for my disability. I wouldn’t have written my one-person musical. I most definitely would not have co-founded a clothing line.
MM: How did the concept for “Social Surge” come to you?
MW: We asked ourselves, “What would it look like if people of all abilities could shop the same clothing line, together?” The concepts come from our consumers. As a human-centered clothing company, we flip the script on the traditional design model. Instead of creating a garment and then finding a consumer, we take our consumers and then create garments around their wants and needs.
MM: What sorts of outfits do you currently offer?
MW: Our Kickstarter campaign features our Kickstarter collection which is made up of the following six items.
- Elevate Zip Hoodie– crafted with the same soft, technical fabric as the Heroic and Utility, this version of the Hoodie is equipped with a full-length magnetic zipper making the alignment of both sides of the zipper as easy as a click. This hoodie also features an upward-facing phone pocket. The Social Surge Logo and the color of each hoodie are printed in Braille with 3D silicone gel on the pocket and the sleeve for easy identification.
- Utility Hoodie– constructed from ultra-soft organic cotton and recycled polyester blend, this hoodie is equipped with an invisible zipper and kangaroo pocket. The pocket design makes it accessible for a wheelchair user. It also helps people who are visually impaired or of any ability to search in their pocket without dropping items. Additionally, the Social Surge Logo and the color of each hoodie are printed in Braille with 3D silicone gel on the pocket and the sleeve for easy identification.
- Heroic Hoodie– constructed from ultra-soft organic cotton and recycled polyester blend, this hoodie is equipped with an upward-facing pocket. The pocket design makes it accessible for a wheelchair user. It also helps people who are visually impaired or of any ability to search in their pocket without dropping items. Additionally, The Social Surge Logo and the color of each hoodie are printed in Braille with 3D silicone gel on the pocket and the sleeve for easy identification.
- Inclusive Tee– this super soft, 100% organic cotton t-shirt features a small Social Surge Logo on the left chest. It also has a universal quantifier on the back of the neck, and Braille color identification on the bottom hem, and the Social Surge Logo on the sleeve in Braille.
- Omni Tee– this super soft, 100% organic cotton t-shirt features a large Social Surge Logo on the chest. It also has a universal quantifier on the back of the neck, and Braille color identification on the bottom hem, and the Social Surge Logo on the sleeve in Braille.
- Braille Baseball Cap– the logo hat features the Social Surge Universal Quantifier logo, with Social Surge 3D silicone gel in Braille onto the side of the hat. Embodying the Social Surge spirit, The Universal Quantifier logo is an upside down “A”, which is a mathematical notation that means “For All”. It also represents Social Surge’s goal to flip the fashion industry upside down.
MM: Which products are the most popular and do you have any personal favorites?
MW: Our most popular items are the sweatshirts which is no surprise since they have the most accessibility features built into them. My personal favorite product is our Tie-Dye Elevate Zip Hoodie.
MM: Do you design all the clothes?
MW: Each of these pieces starts with a story, a living, breathing human who just wants to get dressed easier and shop with everyone else. From there, our team, our consumers, and our manufacturer Triburg work collaboratively to bring each product to life.
MM: What has been the best thing about working in the fashion industry so far?
MW: The best thing about working in the fashion industry has been being able to demonstrate that it doesn’t take much logistically to make clothing suitable for a wider array of consumers, what it takes is a willingness to listen. Being able to give disabled consumers a seat at the table and have their voices be heard in the design process has been incredibly rewarding.
MM: What projects are coming up for you soon and is there anything else that you would like to discuss?
MW: This is just the start of Social Surge. This Kickstarter will give us the opportunity to launch our brand and create accessible and fashionable clothing for all. The hope is that to inspire others in the fashion industry to do the same.