Nearly 1 in 5 people in England and Wales have a disability, with spending power of around £200 billion a year between them and their families.
Yet many products on the market aren’t designed with this in mind, leaving people with long-term illnesses and disabilities often struggling to access them.
One Nottingham student is doing her bit to champion accessible fashion, by designing her own range of clothing, after she found it difficult to find high street clothes that worked for her needs.
Jade Carter from Rise Park is a fashion student at Nottingham College, and she has cystinosis, a rare condition which affects only around 2000 people in the world.
For 26-year-old Jade, this has meant a range of health problems developing over the years, including having to undergo a kidney transplant, and having to be on and off dialysis throughout her life so far.
Jade’s foundation degree in fashion design gave her the opportunity to create a range of clothing, aimed at young people going through dialysis, for her final major project.
The designs incorporate special fastenings that allow access to medical equipment but form part of the overall look. She’s now hoping that raising awareness of this will encourage high street retailers to develop more lines for people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.
Jade drew upon her own experiences as a young dialysis patient to design her range. Jade said:
“Dialysis patients need easy access to lines, fistulas and grafts, but I think young people really want warm, comfy clothing that is also positive and helps them feel good.
“I’ve designed a range of clothing that has bright colours and a modern design, with zips and fastenings to allow easy access to medical lines, but also look attractive.
“I’d love for high street retailers to get on board so we could see more accessible clothing on the high street and online, as that’s where most people shop.”
Jade’s clothing collection was designed to be suitable for people on dialysis as well as the mainstream market. The collection features an abstract line drawing of a face and four bold colours which Jade hopes will appeal to young people on dialysis and their friends too.
Jade said: “I believe it is important to focus on something you’re passionate about, especially when you have health problems, or your whole life will become about your illness.
“Dialysis is difficult, having to have needles put in your arm four times a week along with the renal diet and fluid retraction. So I believe having something alongside of this is important.”
Although Jade often feels very poorly due to her condition, she works hard to keep with her studies, and is now working towards a BA (Hons) art and design top-up degree.
She said: “Being a student at Nottingham College has helped me concentrate and be free about what I’m passionate about. Doing this through art and fashion with help from amazing Lecturers, who believe in what you believe in, has changed my life, and now I'm on the path of a future doing what I believe in.”
Kathy Steadman, Course Leader for the Fashion Foundation Degree at Nottingham College, said:
“Jade has been an inspirational student who has always delivered. In fact, teaching her helped me to further develop my teaching style and resources, as she couldn't always attend classes and work in traditional ways. Initial phone videos have developed into more technical demonstration videos which are a valuable resource for all students.
“It’s great to see the designers of the future developing ideas on their course that could help widen the diversity of fashion on the high street.”
Jade’s partner, 24-year-old Jay Jackson, has supported her both personally and professionally, and they have together set up a small website www.we-are-able.co.uk and they are now taking orders for basic t-shirts with her own design printed on.
Jade chose the name able to describe her collection and subsequent website and t-shirt business. She explained: “Obviously having a health condition is part of you, but it doesn’t make you any different from anyone else in terms of being able to achieve. That’s where the inspiration for the name came from.”
Jade plans to donate profits from the sale of her printed t-shirts to her local dialysis unit.
Jade said: “Unfortunately my new kidney failed when I was 22, so I need another, as cystinosis means that something called cystine builds up in my blood and this then clings to my organs, starting with the kidneys and my eyes. So Jay has been really great support, and he helps me with managing the business.
“I think the message I’d like people to take away from this is that we are all able, no matter the hand we have been dealt. And most of all, I want to spread a bit of happiness and positivity around young people with health problems.
“I’m hoping to use my final major project on my degree course to make my business more mainstream, maybe making some more garments for my website and updating the site itself.”