One Saturday afternoon in January 2016 my life changed.
I had been watching the film Everest, with my son Emile and his sister Esther, who asked logically, ‘Why climb Everest when you might die?’
At the end of the disaster movie I had an errand to run and my son Emile wanted to come with me. Little did I know we were about to face our own Everest.
Five minutes into the drive Emile let out a shout and started to squirm in his seat. His feet were turned inwards and he couldn’t lift his legs.
We went straight to A&E and it took three people to get him out of the car and into a wheelchair.
Emile had suffered a spinal cord stroke which had left him paralysed from the waist down.
I was amazed at how well Emile coped with this traumatic event, his resilience was astounding.
Because Emile has no bladder or bowel function we have to self-catheterise to empty his bladder.
It soon became clear, once we got into our daily routine, that clothes did not fit him properly whilst he sat in the wheelchair.
More importantly, even the comfortable joggers that Emile likes to wear did not provide easy access to catheterise.
I spoke to wheelchair users, carers, physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists in order to find out the issues they faced when getting dressed or supporting someone getting dressed.
With this research, and my own experience with Emile, I approached The Fashion Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University.
They have been researching, with the Stroke Foundation, the difficulties stroke survivors face when trying to find suitable clothes when they return to work.
Students Rebecca and Melissa were excited by my idea of fly front opening joggers and they wanted to make a prototype.
They added a polo top with magnetic openings, making a smart casual tracksuit that would be comfortable, practical and suitable to wear at work.
I am a 55 year old mother of three children, Theo, 25, Emile, 18, and Esther, 16. For over 20 years I have worked as a mental health social worker. My mother was a home machinist in the days when clothing manufacturing was strong, so I had some experience of clothing manufacturing. I believed the idea was strong enough to turn into a business and decided that I am ready to face a new challenge. I would like my products to be made in this country as I want to support British manufacturing.
The name of the business comes from Esther’s nickname for Emile , which is Bealie, so I have called the business Bealies Adaptivewear.
The product; Adaptive joggers/trousers
I have designed bespoke joggers and trousers with a unique opening to enable comfortable catheterising . They are higher at the back to avoid sagging to ensure everything is covered! The trousers will be available in various waist sizes and leg lengths to ensure a better fit for different disabilities and all shapes and sizes.
A small run of the joggers will be made and launched spring 2021.
How the money raised will be used
The money raised will be used to fund the manufacturing of a small run of the joggers and Jogger shorts in 3 primary colours , Navy blue, Dark grey and Black.
The joggers will also be available in 3 leg lengths , short 29 inches, regular 31 inches and extra long 33 inches and a waist sizes from xxs (26-27 inch up to xxl 43-48 inches) A smaller run of the jogger shorts will be manufactured at the same time in the same 3 colours, however available in one length , sitting just at the knee.
Where will the joggers be Manufactured ?
I am producing a small run of the adaptive joggers. To identify any teething problems, fine tune the patterns and materials before producing the joggers on a larger scale. I will be using a UK manufacturer based in Leicester.
Hollyoak Trading have experience in manufacturing top quality, high fashion garments for over 30yrs.
As a Wholesaler Holly Oak Trading can produce garments form jerseys, woven’s, knitted, satins, silks and other specialist fabrics and can provide patterns and styling advice through our vastly experienced pattern cutters.
We supply small independents, online shops and Boutiques and small production runs are welcome.
We specialise in small runs of high quality garments. This is especially useful for new companies and companies wanting to create test runs.
Examples of some of the clothing manufactured by clothing manufacturer Leicester
Hollyoak Trading Wholesale Clothes, clothing manufacturer Leicester
Hollyoak Trading Ltd Clothes Manufacturer Leicester
Marketing and Advertising
Any remaining money will be used towards funding advertising and marketing. I have identified a forward thinking model agency, Able Model Management, whose mission statement revolves around one key concept - “Fashion is for Everyone”. As a creative team, we feel strongly about being inclusive and making fashion accessible to all men, women, and children. We aim to be open-minded and want to ensure that we give equal opportunities to individuals or groups of people that feel they have been misrepresented by society and the fashion industry itself. They will provide wheelchair models from a variety of backgrounds and disabilities to showcase the joggers and shorts in our advertising campaign.
Once the joggers have been manufactured, the business will be formally launched in the summer of 2021. Remaining monies will be used for marketing , advertising and updating the website and the online shop in preparation for online selling of the joggers. I will also be looking to sell the joggers via disability shops in store and online and special needs schools. The joggers will be packaged and dispatched in house (me and the kids !!) to keep the costs down
The future for Bealies Adaptivewear
I would like to continue to add to the collection e.g. update the style and design of the joggers, introduce longline t shirts and design a similar jogger for women in order to be more inclusive for all disabled people. The range will model mainstream fashion and will be updated seasonally.
I will continue to manufacture the products in England and we have identified a British manufacturer. I am also starting to research setting up as a social enterprise, where will continue postage and packing of the products.
Adaptive clothing market
In the UK there are approximately 1.2 million wheelchair users and 13.9 million disabled people. (Family resources survey 2016/17)
There has been a rise of searches on the Internet for adaptive clothing. (Global fashion search Lyst 2019)
The only mainstream designer who has an adaptive range at present is Tommy Hilfiger. However, their clothes are expensive and sold as part of a design range which is not accessible or affordable to everyone.
Coresight Research estimates that the global adaptive clothing market will total $278.2 billion this year and grow to $325.8 billion in 2022. We further estimate that the US adaptive clothing market will reach $44.5 billion in 2018 and grow to $51.8 billion by 2022.
The UK high street does not yet reflect this shift. Unlike the US, where a handful of mainstream stores with adaptive lines. UK retailers remain slow to enter the market.
Designers must address the unmet demand for disability-friendly workwear and occasion wear as identified in the project with Manchester Metropolitan University.
Marks and Spencer are selling an easy dressing range for children in stores and online and, as mentioned above, Tommy Hilfiger has had some success with its inclusive, yet expensive, range of clothes each season.
There is a clear market for my clothes and my business has the potential to grow.