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‘A gap in the market’ – The Benefits of Inclusive Fashion

May 11 2020

Five years ago, Jessie Sadler’s mum had a fall while out shopping, badly damaging her elbows in the process.

“Her injuries prevented her from dressing or moving her arms as she normally would,” said Jessie.

With her arm mobility limited by her injuries, Jessie’s mum struggled to find clothes she could put on and wear comfortably while maintaining her sense of style.

“My mum is a very health conscious and fashion forward female, and over about a six month period the whole process of dressing and choosing what she was going to wear became a bit of a nightmare.”

“My research online to help her find things was very much underwhelming. The available options seemed to be aimed at the aged care sector only.”

“There also appeared to be an assumption that there was a limited market that could afford or wanted higher quality products,” she said.

Jessie quickly became aware of a gap in the market for high quality inclusive clothing, and in 2019 created Christina Stephens, a Brisbane based fashion brand catering for women with disability and limited mobility.

During the development of her first line, Jessie consulted with women with disability, hearing about the design limitations of available high fashion brands.

“The current collection was designed for people with assisted and unassisted dressing needs, so for example someone with arthritis, stroke or MND.”

“Our clothes have wide arm and neck holes, they are loose and comfy but aren’t potato sacks. They are designed to be easy to pull on or off, and have no hard trims, such as buttons and zips.”

“Women wanted something that was fashion forward and not frumpy, that seemed to be the general consensus.”

Since the release of their first collection, Jessie has invited women with disability to collaborate in the design of their next collection.

“We will start this group design process in May. We have been able to recruit women from different backgrounds, whether they be women with disability, carers and family members to help co-create the collection and being involved in an online design group.”

“We call it co-creation. We take on the risk and the technicalities of the design, sampling and manufacturing, but input from the market is what we are seeking.”

“It means we can get the product right as well as garnering brand loyalty and ownership over what the market wants to wear.”

Jessie said that inclusive fashion was important because it had the power to make women with disability feel empowered and able to express themselves.

“I think fashion generally is very important. Particularly for females, it is important for self-confidence.”

“It is how we communicate personality. It also affects how we deliver pop culture advertising, and what the ideal body is perceived as being is also an important element of it.”

Jessie believes that fashion can play a key role in improving the perception of people with disability within society, as well as making good financial sense for designers and outlets to become involved in.

“Media and the fashion industry have the power to make people with disability more visible and to normalise disability.”

“Before COVID 19 hit and we had to isolate, we had a really good launch event lined up with participants from various sectors from the mainstream fashion industry coming to listen to the social and economic benefits of inclusive fashion. We need those people to get involved to make it work.”

“When the restrictions are lifted, we will pick up where we left off and look forward to bringing key industry participants together for a much needed discussion……and celebration.”

“From a business perspective, there is a major gap in the fashion market, full stop.”

Carers Queensland is the NDIS Local Area Coordination Partner in the Community for the Brisbane region.

Carers Queensland can support you to find out more about the NDIS, to apply for funding and to help you get started with the NDIS.

If you have a disability but are not eligible for the NDIS, Carers Queensland can also help you identify and link to options for support in your community.

To find out more about how the NDIS and Local Area Coordination program can work for you, call Carers Queensland NDIS Local Area Coordination Partner in the Community Program on 1300 999 636, or cq.enquiries@ndis.gov.au