As the world around us starts to gain a greater appreciation of the need to focus on equality and inclusion, we are finally beginning to see the fashion industry offering clothing that caters to everyone.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case in 2008 when Victoria Jenkins graduated in Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni London; the industry did not consider those living with disabilities.
Victoria, a garment technologist with 14 years’ experience in the fashion industry, has previously used her immense talent to work for brands such as Victoria Beckham. She became disabled in her 20s and after a chance encounter with a woman suffering from cancer during a 10-day stay in hospital in 2016, vowed to make sure that people living with disabilities were no longer left out.
This led to Unhidden being founded in 2017 and becoming the first inclusive brand to join the British Fashion Council with Victoria using her vast experience of working with household name brands to create adaptive clothing, beautifully crafted that empowers every body to dress with elegance.
We caught up with Victoria to hear her thoughts on how the broader fashion industry is finally embracing change.
I cannot personally describe the effect and impact of spinal injuries; I cannot speak for people who experience this or the people around them. However, what I can do and try my hardest to do, is to make a simple thing easier for the thousands of people with genetic conditions or trauma-induced injuries to adjust to or live easier in a life that has challenged them and denied them a fundamental human right.
I can help them dress.
Like many before me and hopefully, even more, after me, the development of ‘adaptive’ or ‘universal’ design is more than just a business idea or fashion innovation; it is a way of life and the future of a truly inclusive world.
Accepting that there is no ‘one size fits all approach’ means being creative in both fastenings, fabrics, patterns and fit, also means an extensive amount of research and listening to as many voices as possible; taking on and acting on feedback; in fact, that is the brilliant, fun and impactful challenge of this way of designing.
That said, whilst I spent years doing this, I also realised that I could spend 20 years or my whole life researching and refining and not releasing anything, but the need is NOW.
It has already taken too long…
We have children who are unable to dress in school uniforms, teens who are unable to socialise how they want to, and adults who are unable to dress for work or interviews or milestone occasions.
Simple changes can be revolutionary and once incorporated allow so many more people the freedom of choice in dressing; exclusive design practice is not to be celebrated and has no place in an empathetic world.
A longer back rise in trousers, so they don’t dip, the excess removed from the front of the hip and behind the knee, shaping the way the legs are made, so they work in a seated position- effective, simple and opening up a world of self-expression.
If every clothing brand in the world looked just at their best sellers and reworked them, they’d be including every body and excluding no body.
I count myself lucky to know so many other adaptive and universal designers; we are acting where we have seen inaction. I know this community of purpose-led designers and innovators have so much more to offer and work every day to normalise universal design.
The best tip I can give anyone reading this is to search for adaptive fashion. We exist and we are growing: it is a matter of time until you see us on the high street.
Discover Unhidden’s award-winning universally designed adaptive clothing that is tailored to consider every condition and ability - https://unhiddenclothing.com/