According to the World Health Organization, over 65 million members of the global population required a wheelchair in 2010. Despite this overwhelming statistic the fashion industry has hardly addressed this in their designs. People who use wheelchairs have little choice when it comes to fashion. They are forced to wear clothes that don’t necessarily fit or look good on them. Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri’s IZ Collection is tackling this issue head on.
An assortment of basics for men and women, it is one of the first fashion ranges to take into consideration the challenges of dressing while wheelchair bound. A 2004 commission to design a custom shearling cape for a quadriplegic journalist served as the inspiration for Camilleri, who later made the decision to develop an entire line of adaptable clothing for those with limited mobility. An internationally renowned designer whose garments have graced the likes of Meryl Streep, Samuel L Jackson, and David Bowie, she spent five years learning about and attempting to wholly understand her demographic before launching the collection.
“When you see someone in a chair, they are dressed, but you have no idea what it took for them to get dressed in the morning, or how limited their choices were,” Camilleri said in an interview with Forbes Magazine. “Take a long winter coat. Wheelchair users, especially people who are paralyzed, can’t stand up. Imagine putting on a coat while you are sitting down. You are going to end up with a coat puddled on your waist. So a lot of people go winter after winter with a short bomber jacket on or no coat, and they get rained on or snowed on.”
Easy to slip in and out of, the pieces in the collection are designed so that they don’t bunch at the waist or slip down the back. The fabrics and contours used are carefully considered so as not to cause the wearer any kind of discomfort or pressure sores. The designs are also mindful of the kind of chair the wearer is using – either manual or power, depending on their disability – as this often affects the way muscles develop in different parts of their bodies.
Most importantly the pieces are relevant when it comes to current trends, dismissing the assumption that those who use wheelchairs care little about their outfits’ aesthetic appeal. IZ Collection’s customers are looking for the same kind of modern, cutting-edge styles generally available to the able-bodied market. “If you liked clothes before an injury, you’re going to like clothes afterward too,” Camilleri told Mic. “Just because you’re sitting doesn’t mean you’ve stopped caring about what you wear, and want to look good.”
Initially, most retailers were hesitant to stock the clothes due to general uncertainty that their staff would be able to successfully sell it. The range is now exclusively sold to consumers from the IZ Collection website. “The good thing is we attract a global audience,” Camilleri says. “There’s no way we would have this kind of reach if we weren’t online.”