Adaptive Clothing and Hidden Disabilities with Victoria Jenkins
Today we’re sharing an important discussion about hidden disabilities with our guest Victoria Jenkins. She is a designer, garment technologist, and the creative director and founder of Unhidden Clothing. Martyn talks with her about the challenges of living with a disability that is not visually obvious as well as her work designing and altering clothing to make them suitable and comfortable for people with disabilities.
Contact Mai Ling: MLC at mailingchan.com
Contact Martyn: Martyn at martynsibley.com
We're still valid, exactly as we are with all the illnesses going on. We're still valid and you know, unfortunate, annoying, and it can be super depressing, but it doesn't make us any less worthy.
Welcome to Xceptional Leaders, with Mai Ling and Martyn, where we spotlight high profile topics, and amazing people who are changing the world view on disability. I'm Martyn Sibley from martynsibley.com. And
Mai Ling 00:29
I'm Mai Ling Chan and you can find me at mailingchan.com. And I am so excited that Martyn is back with us. Welcome back, Martyn.
Yes, thank you so much Mai Ling, for, for covering me. I think you mentioned on one of the previous episodes, the Purple Goat (http://purplegoatagency.com/) business, which we spoke about, that launched in April really took off, and it needed quite a lot of focus and love and attention to it, to really help it through those early growing pains that we know, small startups need. But also, as I've been much more open to speaking about, there's been a bit of a crunch this year with COVID. And generally, it's a mental health thing that I think has been really important to deal with. And so, I'm quite open to share with people now that I actually had a few sessions with a therapist, just to work through some of these things. And I'm feeling a million dollars after the break. And after having that bit of help from relevant professionals as well.
Mai Ling 01:27
That's wonderful, Martyn, thank you so much for sharing, I think we all raise our hands and say, yes, we've had the ups and downs. You know, in the last eight months, it's just been incredible. And I think we keep waking up every day being like, okay, it's over, right, you know, today's a different day, and it's not so totally understandable, Martyn, you know, this actually pairs well, with our episode today, which spotlights Victoria Jenkins (https://www.linkedin.com/in/victoria-jenkins-812b7027/?originalSubdomain=uk), she does such a wonderful job of introducing us to the very personal side of hidden disabilities, and also fashion accessibility. So, I kind of want to get into that. But I know that your personal story can also weave into this. So how did you find her as a Podcast Guest?
Yes, because as you remember, I did a whole load of interviews on my own channels like a live stream. And it was very much because of the lockdown, I wasn't going and speaking at events, and I wasn't traveling the world like I normally do, with the blogging and the travel stuff. And so that generally I did these interviews live every day. And they kind of snowballed and took a life on their own, where, you know, people were just getting in touch and saying I'd love to be on the show. And obviously they knew about our podcast, and that we're using some of those interviews for the podcast too. And I know specifically with Victoria, I'm pretty sure it was like an Instagram direct message. It wasn't a face to face interaction, or even a friend of a friend. It was just pure, cold digital outreach, which, as we know, Mai, works really well and brings good people together.
Mai Ling 02:58
It's so true. You know, I always say I stalked people. That's how I find my best friends.
You know that the content creation stuff. It's like we're doing this podcast. And we know, we get so many people that listen, and they've, you know, some actually write to us and give us their feedback. And I think sometimes it, from the content creation side, it takes a lot of dedication and a lot of hard work behind the scenes to do it. And it's totally, totally worth that, that effort. But it is lovely when you realize those sorts of connections and that impact that it creates as well.
Mai Ling 03:33
Exactly. Thank you for saying that. I also want to invite our listeners to contact us. You can either send us an email, like Martyn said, or you can follow us on our Facebook page, which is Xceptional Leaders Podcast (https://www.facebook.com/xceptionalleaderspodcast/). So definitely interact, let us know what you think. Let us know if you have an idea of someone who'd be the perfect guest. We would love it. Another thing I wanted to bring up is the conversation that you had about handicapped parking spots.
Yeah, yeah, I think we, you know, we've had this chat a couple of times, for the British listeners handicap is like a no no word. I don't know, in the US, it's a totally acceptable word. It's just really, that whole language thing around disability is so so intriguing to me as well. But um, yeah, in terms of the disabled parking, we have what we call blue badge parking. And it's like a badge that you put in the front window, the windscreen of the car, and it signals that you have a disability and you're allowed to use those particular, as you say, the handicap spaces in the US. And yeah, it's one of those interesting ones, even with people that have noticeable disability, but for Victoria, someone with a, everyone will hear it soon as well, but with an invisible disability, it's um, yeah, I have a really interesting world of the reactions and responses that she gets, and many other people just like her get as well.
Mai Ling 04:54
Yeah, and this also reminds me of the restrooms, and you did talk about that. I don't want to be a, do spoiler alerts here. But just the idea is that, you know, if someone is using the restroom and is typical and really does not need it, visually, people are standing in line and going, oh, that person, you know, doesn't need it. But they don't know, you know, you don't know if somebody, it's not a visual, it's not a mobility issue or an access issue. So, I really love her conversation today and just being so personal and genuine about it, she was doing a great job.
A really nice person, as obviously everyone on our show, but the fact we've curated there, and we've researched and we've selected, even when people reach out, of course, we, you know, check out people's backstory, and so everyone on the show is, of course, amazing. Exceptional, you might say, but in the end like she was just a really, you know, genuine person that was just wanting to serve the community and that there was just zero ego with Victoria. And that really shone through.
Mai Ling 05:54
Yes, and what actually comes up with our exceptional leaders is, you know, you really have to be willing to share your story. And this brings me back, Martyn, to you starting this episode, with your personal story about seeing somebody you know. Back in the day, Martyn, that was like a Whoo, you know, I don't want to tell anybody that, you know, I'm seeing my therapist, or if you did, it was kind of like with a joke wrapped around it. Right. But nowadays, it's kind of essential, don't you think?
Well I mean, the way I view that I've written a post and I, I didn't want to add that point that you know, anyone listening and hearing me saying this publicly, people don't need to worry, like, I'm really feeling solid. And I build those foundations. And I'm not sharing it for some kind of reaction or to be alarmist. The reason I'm sharing it is, I know that there's a lot of other people out there that at different levels are struggling or have struggled with their mental health. And I suppose I'm just trying to be a voice that says, it's fine to do so. But I had those stigmas. And I felt a bit weird and uncomfortable when I first saw that, that help of having a therapist, but in the end, I see it the way that we need to eat healthy and have exercise and look after our body, we have to look after our mental wellbeing and for me, this was about prevention, rather than cure. I didn't let it get that bad. I wasn't, you know, not getting out of bed or something that really, really extreme. I was basically ticking along fine. But I knew if I didn't address it, it would get out of hand over time. And I'd be interested in your side Mai Ling, like, you know, whether it's mental health or just general physical health, that how have you formed the habits or routines to be your best self and show up for others every day?
Mai Ling 07:43
Yeah, that's a great question, Martin. I am very structured. And so, I actually do plan my downtime. You know, I get up a half hour early and do the self-care things that I need to do. When I unplug, I literally unplug you know, I'm not available. I don't bring my phone. Just things like that, exercise. You know, we plan it, it's usually like playtime, like we're gonna take the dog and go run in the park. But really, thank you so much for sharing Martyn, we appreciate it and it reminds us of my favorite saying, which is, an empty cup has nothing to give, right? And this all happened because he was having so much success with the launch of Purple Goat, the marketing company and it's wonderful Martyn that you saw the activity escalating and of course anxiety that comes with it, but then you know, reaching out soon, sooner rather than later. So, thank you, Martyn for being a wonderful role model for us and for sharing.
Thank you for being my amazing podcast wife and covering for me while I was away. And yeah, it's great to get back because I do love our chats. And you know, we really put the world to rights, and we have a very similar values of mindset, as I'm sure a lot of our listeners do. And I think the more we share our personal stories, it always resonates and helps somebody else as well.
Mai Ling 08:54
Excellent. Well, that's what we're here for. So, let's get to Victoria Jenkins's beautiful story.
Let's do it. Today, first of all, I'm going to welcome my guest Victoria. So, thank you for joining us.
Thank you for having me. My name is Victoria. I am a designer and a garment technologist. But more importantly and more relevantly, I'm the creative director and founder of Unhidden Clothing (https://unhiddenclothing.com/), which is launching soon, but it's to do eco and sustainable clothing for disabled people. Proper adaptive wear that's stylish and also responsible.
Yeah, love that. That's sounds good. I already can tell it's going to be a good chat today. So, disability wise, do you have a hidden disability yourself?
Yeah. So, I mean it doesn't really have a collective name, because it's more of a case of having 11 different conditions. So, it's kind of just generally, all of them combined makes it a disability thing. I'd you know, I didn't even really realize that that applied to me about four years ago. It's all abdominal issues. You know, IBS, I have a parallel stomach, which is called gastroparesis, some colon issues and bowel issues and vein issues. Keeps me busy.
Sure. And we've touched upon this yesterday, this notion, mostly with Gemma and me being in a wheelchair, it's a visible disability. And so, you know, a lot of people they see immediately and there's the whole navigating, people just asking random questions and, and that kind of stuff. And I think, as I was growing up, there was so much work about someone like myself, with a wheelchair, to have the world more accessible. But I feel like, in the last I'm gonna say five years, it's not an exact time, that there's obviously been a great job of, particularly for wheelchair users, with more visible disabilities, there is lot more awareness. But I think it's good that there's been more awareness recently for hidden disabilities. I mean, for you, like you know, goes person to person on what you want, but like, as a general, you know, awareness raising campaign, what have you seen the difficulties to be, for people with hidden disabilities in terms of public, sort of perception?
I think it's that whole, you don't look sick sort of problem. And, you know, sort of people saying, oh, have you tried yoga? Or have you, you know, you have eaten kale, it killed my aunt's cousin's wife or something. It's kind of that almost not believing that there's something very wrong, especially if you're mobile, and walking around. And I think what really would work as well, that's one of the things that's a problem, because, you know, you go for a job, and I've gone for job interviews and worked with clients and been very upfront about my health issues. And because I don't look sick, and I'm there, they're like, great. And then, you know, a few months down the line when I'm still sick, like, Oh, you really don't get better, do you? And you know, it's lost me work before, because of that. So, yeah, it's quite annoying. I think also, especially with bowel issues, it's the whole bathroom, whole bathroom thing of like, not wanting to stand for very long, I mean, only recently got a RADAR key, understanding queues, like outside, you know, like a concert. And I've been in the queue for the disabled toilets and sort of sent out, you know, a gaggle of girls in front of me that just didn't want to queue for, you know, I mean, you know, are you actually disabled? Or, you know, should you be in the queue? And then, I then have to always like, flash either my scars or divulge everything that's wrong with me. So that we have, yeah, shouldn't have to explain that. I think most people are so used to I mean, I've been stopped going into, you know, sort of a bar with my medications, like, in my handbag, sometimes, you know, they think I am taking illegal substances. And I'm like, I'm happy for you to hold on to these until I leave, but I want a medical note with them, and they can't, you know, you can't throw them away, basically. And then they usually sort of relent. But,
Yeah, so in terms of the public perception, I totally hear that there's this kind of, you know, if you do the right things, you get better surely. And when you're not getting better, it's like, surprise. And so, I noticed, you mentioned the job thing, I can imagine that very well, that's obviously double difficult, because that's the sort of route to financial independence and, and it's kind of stuck. When you just then talked about accessible lose. And I just thought, you know, there's a lot of that need around accessible parking spaces for different you know, not just yourself, but within that community of hidden disabilities. I would imagine that sometimes things around other people in the disabled community, understanding it, because obviously, for me, the way which I use, if someone gets out of the car in a, in an accessible parking space, and there are not visibly inverted commas, disabled, like, yeah, it's kind of it. This is more a general point. I've never had a go at anyone in my life. I don't think that I can imagine there's that sort of awareness raising within the community, as much as externally, right?
Yeah. I mean, you see, sort of reports all the time, I certainly do, in some of the sick, you know, chronic sick groups, that I'm in, and people, you know, they come back to the car and someone's left a note saying, yeah, how you walk you don't need this space, and you're like, who's got the time to be that angry to go and get a note, as you know, and it's probably someone that would absolutely use that space anyway. So yeah, it's really difficult with public perception, I think because you really, I mean, even if you're known for, even if you're really good at raising awareness, you still have to tell someone, and, you know, divulge really personal details to get people to understand. Yeah, less judgmental, I think is what and it's usually I mean, especially when it comes to bowel stuff, it's all that embarrassing things that, you know, being British, rule told not to sort of talk about the bathroom, you know, generally speaking, but it's an, it's a
But it's so, you know, like it's a basic need. It's a, it's a dignity, it's a human right. And yeah, you know, rather than sort of the almost segmenting visible or invisible like, you know, there's different challenges, I think around accessible toilets like for me to you, but like, in the end, it's about that basic access to a toilet. I mean how in 2020 can it, you know, be so difficult to find a loo, basically that is.
I mean, there's still you know, like you go to, especially in London, you go to a restaurant and they've got a disabled loo, but they're usually using it for storage.
And you are, O you can't even actually physically get to it. You know, they filled it with barstools and all sorts of like, yeah, I mean... I try now, whenever I go out, if I see, you know, even just a little, like not a ramp, so I'm like, what? A wheelchair user can't get in here, right? So, I will tell the staff. But I mean, I know people that have gone to restaurants in a wheelchair, the staff say, all the disabled toilets' out of order. You know, so that, you know, we'd still love you to stay for dinner. It's like, why would you stay and give money to a restaurant that's not taking care of a basic need? You wouldn't dare ask an able person to go to a restaurant and not give them a toilet. Drink and fill your bladder but you can't use the loo.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, this is the, I don't know how much you've sort of picked up from different things I've been involved in. But there is this big movement of the business case, I think there's always, always should be the moral right thing to do case, there's been the legal case since the Disability Discrimination Act in 95. And it's basically equalities, access 2010. But yeah, it's still not fixed. And then there's an argument that, like you say, if you want me and all my, my crew, my entourage, whatever it is, to come to your restaurant or your cafe and spend our money that enables you as a business to flourish, then like, yeah, there's an access requirement. And we spoke earlier in the week, we had Chris Veitch, that's a lot around accessible tourism. But the big thing, he always talks about, is always banging the same drum. And that drum is about customer service. And it's like, even when it's not perfect for access, there's still that thing about just having the nouse and the common sense to just, you know, as a customer, what do you need and how can we help you have a good experience?
Exactly. I think what we are just saying, you know, we're not doing it right, hold the hands up and say, we haven't got it right. Help us, you know, there is so much more.
Yeah, I was also interested, because of Purple Goat, we've been working on a project around medicinal cannabis. I don't know, I wasn't really aware of this, till this recent project, well came to us. But it's become legal, apparently, to have cannabis for medicinal use. But, of course, as a prescription is prohibitively high. And so most people can't afford it, right?
I mean, I do know, one people that have gone down the road of sort of making their own, but obviously obtaining illegal cannabis, made their own oil from it. And its desperation, you know, because it does have some really good pain qualities. Is that the right word? But it's, you know, it's really helped a lot of people. And you can take out the sort of psychedelic, I think it's the THC, I can't remember, that's what it's called, you can take that bit out. So, it's not like you're suddenly stoned. You know, it just does all the other things that that herb can, can do to your body. Yeah, I mean, as if disabled lives aren't hard enough, to give us a prescription, you know, that one, that's really expensive, it's just a hole, it's not that visible anymore, is it? And it's not like everyone's trying to buy it to get high.
Not everyone. 😊 I think, obviously, this is a very quick touch point for our conversation. And there's a point that I want to expand a bit more, in a second, but I think also it would be when the time's right, I'll get the person campaigning around this issue to come on the show. Because I think, yeah, sort of like you and I probably have got that top-level knowledge of it, but sort of not, not the right… It's an interesting topic area, but because also, I mean, if toilets are taboo, you know, cannabis is illegal. But yeah people as you have said, and I've become aware that it's actually really powerful with the pain and that kind of stuff. So yeah, that I'll look into trying to get that person on the show in the future. But the point to expand on is, so they're looking at like a card that would sort of show in it that you're allowed. You have that prescription sort of level. Again, I'm not going to go into all of it, but the point is that how do people prove that, like in this instance, they are eligible. So that's a very specific use case. But like blue badges and all that kind of stuff if there are criteria, but is not always, a catch all for everybody that needs.
And it's I think they're so open to abuse as well. I mean, that's the flip side, I've been on my RADAR Key, and I thought, oh, you know, maybe I'll have to provide some kind of information about why I need it. Yeah, nope, I thought, well, that's, you know... I also, I know, I've been making masks since the beginning. And one of my friends, his girlfriend was working for a charity that was giving out badges to, like medically exempt badges for people that couldn't wear a mask, and a suit. And you know, they maybe have 100 orders a week. And as soon as Boris made that announcement that they were mandatory, they have 4000 in one day, not from people that needed that medical exam, that medical exam, yeah, they had to close it down and had to close down the whole service, because it was impossible for them to spend that kind of time checking, that really needed it. You know, it made me so angry.
I got an email in this morning from the Disability Strategy Unit, I think they called it. It's a new unit in government, that's all about disability. And they've done some like animations, to do with the sort of do's or don'ts. All right. So, I think just to make it clear what the rules are around mask exemption, I haven't looked at it yet, so, I can't say exactly what's on it. But like, even if the guidelines are clear, you've got that double side that how do those that need it, prove they need this as an exemption.
And I've seen, I've seen there's a lanyard with sunflowers on, that you're supposed to be able to buy, and that it's that's meant to be proof that like if you see that and recognize it, you know, that person doesn't need to worry about it again. It can be bought by anybody.
Yeah, yeah. Actually, that's a, that's a nice segue. It's similar but different. But the sunflower lanyard started at Gatwick Airport. And I know, a lot of the supermarkets have adopted it. And that's very much around customers and passengers with hidden disabilities. Do you know a bit more about the sunflower lanyard scheme?
I don't know the complete ins and outs of it. I just know that...
It is not our interview topic anyway. 😊
Like no, I do not, like I've seen a few posts around it. And I, cuz I think, I would know more if it was relevant to me, because I, because I can wear a mask, I haven't sort of stepped into that arena so much. I just, I've already seen people posting that they know other people that have bought it, that didn't need it. They just didn't want to wear a mask. Yeah. So, I think it's the whole, it just needs to be tightened up, so that it is a bit harder. But I think it's, it's not like you want to put in your medical NHS number or anything like that. But if you're just told what to put in, like people can Google problems and just say I have this illness. And again, how would you say that they don't. So, like it's wonderful that it’s, like in terms of accessibility that it was, it is a great scheme, and I think it's relatively new enough that it's still worth doing for people that really need to.
Then it's more abled people need to recognize it more, so than like other sick people. We can, you know, we've all usually you know, you've got a sort of nod, nod, wink, wink, we all know what's going on with each other, but it's the rest of the world that don't know.
Yeah, yeah. So it is that balance of those that need it, but then, like not having the abuse of a system for the people that don't need it. Which I mean, I can imagine is not easy. I mean, you're in a website for that or building that kind of platform. I mean, it must be a headache. Like my auntie has had ME (Myalgic encephalomyelitis) for I don't know, how many years, is probably about 20 years, and trying to get like the benefit side like PIP, Personal Independence Payment. It's like, yeah, it could, she can walk, like she can walk. But it doesn't mean that she can walk far, and you know on a bad day, in a way she can't walk really on a bad day. But it's so fluctuating and different that, that that system that's trying to stop fraud is gone the other way, that it stops some people that need the help as well.
Yeah, I mean, everyone, I don't qualify for it purely because I live with my partner. And they basically it’s means tested and which is why disabled people don't even have marriage equality, you know, if you, if you have benefits, and then you meet someone and marry them, then your benefits won't be taken away. And that's you know, I mean, I find that pretty horrific in itself. But I don't qualify because I live with my partner but I started the process of PIP and I got so far through it and thought you know, it's kind of a given, everyone understands you will get rejected, and you have to reapply. And that might go through that process at least two other times. I mean, to be honest, anyone that does manage to fraudulently use that system is yeah, yeah. It's like it's hard. It's a hard form to fill in. It's really, really difficult and the criteria... And yeah, I think they've gone a bit too far trying to stop people taking the misusage, I think. Yeah, no, it's dreadful. And I feel sorry for your aunt, because ME, I mean, I think steps have come a long way now with ME and understanding around chronic fatigue. Whereas before, you know, that used to be sort of the joke, you know, people used to be quite happy making jokes about ME, that you are just tired. You know, it's good to see, I think a bit more awareness coming around that,
That as we said, at the beginning, there's definitely been more positive awareness around these sorts of disabilities. But yeah, so moving things forward a bit Vicki, like, obviously, one big thing is around Instagram, YouTube, Influencers and how it changes perception. So, I think we've, we've definitely touched upon that part of it already. Be great if you could just tell us a bit more about how you got into fashion and some of the stuff you've been up to in that domain as well.
Okay, so I mean, I studied fashion design at university, I graduated in 2008. And at that point, I was not disabled, I didn't have any of the issues that I have now. And then, eight years ago, I had an ulcer that I didn't know I had, and it burst, you know, hole in the stomach, and I nearly died. And then I was still trying to work in fashion as a garment technologist and just getting so sicker and sicker, other surgeries, various bits of me removed. And then I was in hospital with a woman who had survived ovarian cancer. And she had a stoma, she had a picc line, and she was being fitted for TPN. But whenever the doctors came, she has to take everything off. No, there's, there's got to be a way around it. I mean, my job is the construction of garments as a garment technology. So, I thought, now there's ways around this, so I started researching it. And that, while there is some adaptive clothing out there, it's generally aimed or made from the perspective of carers, or, you know, the elderly, there's not anything really fashionable or young, that doesn't look super modified as well, you know, and I just thought, this should already be a thing. And I mean, that was four years ago, that I had this idea for Unhidden and we're now I think I've done more in the last six months for Unhidden then in four years.
Now, it's not anything to do with a pandemic or something?
Certainly. Now, we're having our first samples made, and we're hoping to shoot our campaign to crowdfund our work. I mean, I came across models of diversity whilst I was doing my research a few years ago. And it was, I had conversations with Angel before. And then yeah, this year, when I started looking for a brand ambassador in January.
I mean, I mean, I think obviously, everyone else was doing it from like, a model point of view, they wanted to sort of be represented. And it literally didn't even cross my mind. I just thought no, I like our, our beliefs aligned so much. I just wanted to work with them. So yeah, we probably will be using half of everyone that well, everyone that they have to help us shoot our campaign.
Yeah. So, in essence, it's around the clothing line, that I'm thinking, about that they do look nice and stylish, as opposed to some other adapted wear, right?
Not gonna name any names in adaptive wear. But yeah, it's just, you know, it's all a bit and none of it sustainably or ethically made, either. And also, I mean, because it is, you know, it will be sort of more expensive for that and I believe in paying the garment workers as well, having worked in industry for so long. And, you know, obviously, we all know that fast fashion is slowly killing the planet and people. So yeah, so we will also offer an option to adapt people's existing wardrobes. So, because I think it's something like, this is not the correct number, I probably should have had this stat correctly in my head before saying it, but it's something like 80% of disabled people aren't born disabled. People have already got an entire wardrobe of clothes that suddenly don’t fit them or are uncomfortable. So, I want to be able to help you know, so they don't have to go and buy a whole new wardrobe. I'm also now trying to work out logistically how I can teach people to adapt their own clothing as well within the parameters of disability, you know, not just people that want to shorten the trouser like, you know, people that need a longer sort of rise in the back for their trousers or people that need to be able to get into their sleeves, that sort of thing.
Yeah, so actually, it's, in the end, it won't just be the hidden disability community only.
Everyone, this is as many people as, I can help. You know, within one garment, I try and sort of see what if you have this problem, what would you need and go tackle it from that perspective.
So, on a personal level, one of my main care team, is someone called Eileen, she's 71. She bikes quite far to work every day to help me and like, so I've always been disabled. But I would say I'm happy to say publicly got a bit of a bigger belly the last couple of years, maybe getting up to middle aged spread or something. And like it was getting uncomfortable. So, I then looked on the market for adapted stuff. And yeah, like we've just set before the style is not the best and, and the marketing, which is my Purple Goat advertising, how and just doesn't represent me. I am not in my seventies, and, you know, living that life and the way.
It is sort of someone's carrying hand on a shoulder and sort of they are, they are, like, in a blanket over their legs or something like, you know, yeah, it's astounding really that no one has covered it more. I mean, Tommy Hilfiger has done an adaptive range. Yeah, I think they're relaunching it in Australia this year. But from what I've seen a bit, so far, it is mainly magnets put into things so it's like easy to get it on, not necessarily tackling everything else.
Like then I took my point to Eileen, she's added longer zips to my trousers and jeans and like, like taking the hammer up at the bottom. But we've often said there's a need for this because not everyone has an Eileen, right? So, I think what you're doing is very much what I was looking for prior to being very lucky that Eileen is able to do it.
Helps them by all means, send it my way.
So brilliant. And I just think you're actually tapping into a really big need though, which is fantastic. And it's good to clarify, that was the inspiration it came from, this case you talked about in the beginning, which I'm sure is still very much there. But it's wheelchair users that need that higher backs and all that kind of stuff.
Yeah, it's all the seams that you know, like you don't need back pockets on trousers and to sit on it, especially if you've got lower sensitivity, can cause a lot of skin problems. So, it's removing all the things that don't need to be there. And if you look at when you're sat, that trousers aren't designed for when you're sat down, so there's all of the access at your front hip that you don't need, and then the same at the back of your knee. So, the patterns that we've got, they've removed all of that. So, you've not got all this excess fabric everywhere. It's literally like shape around a sat down body.
Yeah, yeah, that's nice to feel heard and understood, actually, because it, it's a problem I've been dealing with for years, but you just do it silently. Because it's like, you could look online, and there's nothing. There's nothing out there until now. So
Obviously. 😊 I'm a very keen entrepreneur. I'm not, I'm into that world as well. So how are you finding this sort of business? So that, have you been able to get grants or access to other expertise or investors or anything in that world? Or is it like literally, you are bootstrapping it at the moment,
It's a bit bootstrapping it, I've got two other guys that are sort of friends of mine that approached me to sort of join forces, one of whom is a doctor. And so, we kind of privately funding this sort of collection to then crowdfund, because we really want to use it to also grow the community, like the more people know what we're doing.
It spreads the word for them. And also, I mean, it is a good idea. And I think the problem if we give it to, if we opened it up to the private investors, is them being in more control than we are.
I mean, especially because I want to be ethical and sustainable. It just means that I am a bit of a perfectionist, I want to know who's touched what, when. Yeah, I think I'd start to lose that if sort of money got funneled in from other people, and they have more control over it. You know, they'd probably be telling me we could do it cheaper here. And that's it, maybe, but it wouldn't necessarily be ethical then. So, it's
I think that caution is correct. I would say like the right investor that has the same values would be a double whammy, but then it's finding someone that
Just wants to invest in something good. If you're out there…
But otherwise, no, no, we'll just, we'll see what we can make happen. You know, I've worked in industry long enough and have a decent-ish amount of contacts. And it's been really well received from people that have heard about what we're doing so far. So, fingers crossed.
Yes. Awesome. That's really exciting. Because there's so many interesting things you're working on, Vicki. It rather is, I don't know where to take us next. For people watching what's your, you know, what's your big message you'd want to get out through this conversation today?
I think reach out to me or to you, if they have to find out more and I mean anyone who is able bodied, just start to consider it, to start to think what your life would look like, if you know you lost a limb or you became sick, or you were hospitalized, and then that became your life, you know, you can't ask the people in that situation to advocate only for themselves, you know, we need people who it doesn't directly affect to, also consider accessibility needs.
Yeah, yeah, I think that's because what have been our chats that I've talked about, how do you break through society's consciousness about disability and not only have it as a victim conversation.
Exactly, yeah. Like, you know, hashtag not your inspiration porn, is sort of one of my favorite phrases, you know, borrowing. You're doing this despite, or, you know, and it's like, no, we're still valid, exactly as we are with all the illnesses going on, we're still valid. And you know, yes, it's unfortunate, annoying, and it can be super depressing, but it doesn't make us any less worthy.
Exactly. And I think that that valuable bits helpful to like, as you say, is to talk about, it's not all bad, terrible, whatever. But it's still like how you peer that consciousness. And I think, this idea, we've debated that people, like as people get older, they may not ever identify as disabled, but they end up with health conditions that ultimately, under the equalities, act, they are regarded as disabled.
If we're using walking frames when they're elderly, we see that as a given, but you don't necessarily go disabled. So not only did want to call it that, essentially, everyone will end up disabled by the time they're old.
Yeah. And I think like for you, yeah, you'd have like a product, the product is the same. Because in the end, it's about that comfort and adoptions and all the rest of it. And then for me, like the marketing, which is you'd have an older person's marketing campaign, where and I still think they could make those a little bit better than they are to be honest.
Yeah, just to be that, just because you're older, you don't want to be stylish, either. Like it's Yeah, it's just on so many levels. But I think it's someone seeing a need, fixing it, but not really thinking about expression. I mean, you know, so many people take it for granted, we can that you can wear what you want, and express yourself however you like. And it's just that dignity side of things of being forced to wear clothes that are painful or uncomfortable, because no one's catering to your need. I just think that doesn't need to be the case.
Yeah, great. Great. Cool. Where can people follow your work and all the latest news as it, as it unravels, excitingly.
There's so much, so @victoria_is_unhidden is my Instagram handle. And there's also Unhidden Clothing, there's a website for that, and an Instagram page, and on LinkedIn, but there's also a form within the Unhidden website for people to fill in needs that they might have within clothing. And so, it will end up developing and being part of the future collection. So, if people can fill that in, that's great. And if you want to buy a mask, then @Victoriaannstudio, also on Instagram. I'm launching a course today, under Victoriaannstudio.com, around technical fashion for people that want to start their own range. But I also have a few masks through there. And I'll be updating people about various things. I'm actually probably through that as a sort of mayor.
Yeah, okay, cool. I did you know, when the clothes, from my own perspective, though, when it'll be available, so?
Well, it depends. That's the problem. I mean, I'd like to be in production by the end of the year. With COVID and, yeah, it's so it's so unpredictable. We just don't know where we're going to be. So, I don't want to tell people a date and then be wrong.
Good stuff. I think the hidden disability stuff is, is something that we need to keep raising more awareness on. And thanks, Vicki for being so open and candid about that. That really struck a chord. And then obviously, at the fashion side as well, I think it's a very much needed solution to an ongoing problem. All right, we will get in touch with Vicki, if you've got any questions or needs after today. And I'll be back for another episode. And in the meantime, have a lovely day. Bye, Vicki, and everybody.
Bye Martyn, thank you.
Mai Ling 39:15
Thanks so much for joining us for this episode. And remember that if you have a creative idea that you're ready to start on and want help from someone who truly understands what it means to build a disability focused offering, visit Malingchan.com and let's get started.
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My name is Victoria. I’ve had a lifelong love for fashion and as soon as circumstances allowed I threw myself into learning as much as I could.
This formally started when I went to study Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni and graduated with a first in 2008.
I immediately interned with Inbar Spector for 7 months and through 2 shows; 7 days a week on occasion and from 8am until... well, 8am the next day around show time.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Add to this a couple of weeks working on props for the Costume department for Russel Crowes’ Robin Hood film, and working twice on the runway samples for Antonio Berardi.
I moved on to pattern cutting with Goddiva fashion, and as they grew the role changed and I fell in to 'Garment Teching'.
Ever on the hunt for more, I tracked down a position at Just Jamie (a high street clothing supplier) specifically as a garment technologist and worked on a variety of accounts like Long Tall Sally, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Primark.
Ever hungry for more opportunities to make a difference within fashion I found myself at John Kaldor - another high street clothing supplier - and worked predominantly on their account with Phase Eight. Honestly, I still miss their fit sessions as there are some really gorgeous clothing there and some very talented people.
Now comes the moment I went 'brand' and worked as a garment technologist on tailoring and woven at Jack Wills for both mens and women's wear. I thoroughly enjoyed working there; I still miss it... However, I got head hunted out of there by Allsaints and that felt amazing as well as very full circle - their head office was only around the corner from the Istituto Marangoni Campus!
I worked on the menswear range at Jack Wills but it was relatively short lived as I then got offered a senior garment tech role at Victoria Beckham, working again on tailoring. I am still deeply appreciative of my time there. The construction was incredible and the fabrics were just... Next level.
In my independent capacity, I have worked with Sweaty Betty, Reiss, Me + Em and a huge number of startups who have been the inspiration for this course - coming from all walks of life they haven’t often studied garment construction in any way.
I have a friendly and inclusive approach for people of all knowledge levels. You’ll feel well supported. It also helps that I bring years of experience working to produce fashion...