The London Fashion Week on Friday, witnessed a unique lineup of apparel by designer Victoria Jenkins, comprising practical yet stylish clothes for people with disabilities. This practical collection, as testified by the designer herself, was largely intended to bridge the gap in the market when it comes to viable, practical dressing for people with physical challenges.
Unhidden is a multi award winning, socially responsible adaptive fashion brand for people with (and without) disabilities. Unhidden is the first adaptive brand to become a member of the British Fashion Council, and in 2021 was also the first adaptive brand to have retail space in multiple locations after partnering with co-retail start up Sook.
Innovation to Include All
The event dedicated to practical fashion named “Unhidden – A New Era In Fashion”, bore witness to almost 30 models – all with challenges of one kind or the other, a visible difference , a chronic condition and other disabilities model for exquisite yet practical clothes. Floaty dresses with easy access round the waist, chiffon tie-shirts with adjustable sleeves – all these were part of the practical ensemble that Unhidden put out at footwear brand Kurt Geiger’s showroom.
As Jenkins says in her interview with Reuters – “Unhidden is an adaptive fashion brand, primarily targeted at inclusion within fashion of people with disabilities”, it becomes evident that Unhidden as a brand, is an ambassador of practical clothing, breaking fashion barriers for all sections of society.
Jenkins, who has limited mobility, first saw a gap in the market for practical garments created for all bodies during a hospital stay in 2016 when another patient mentioned it. Surprisingly, just a few manufacturers, notably Tommy Hilfiger, provide such practical and accessible fashion for everybody, so she decided to leverage her past knowledge as a garment technician to launch her own business, under the label of Unhidden.
“When I had this idea, it was like a light bulb and just everything changed. It helps me personally, but also I see the impact around me of people being able to dress how they need to.” – Jenkins says.
Breaking The Barriers
Jenkins demonstrated a royal blue shirt with pop snaps that open and close easily, as people who have had strokes can struggle with buttons. “It also has openings all down the arm,” she said, so that anyone going through treatment “can access their arm without taking any clothes off. It’s about dignity.”
Jessica Ping-Wild, a model and content producer who wears a prosthetic limb and struggles to find comfortable trousers, says a business like Unhidden makes all the difference. “A designer taking into consideration the fact that bodies are different, it’s almost breaking that mould of beauty that has been so ingrained in society for centuries,” she said. Her words reflected her genuine appreciation of the practical purpose that a brand like Unhidden served in the arena of fashion.
Disability Completes Diversity
Jenkins’ range at present includes wheelchair-friendly shirts with longer backs and tailor-made outfits. She expects that her clothing will become even more widely available in the future. The vision that Unhidden as a branch upholds can be called truly humanitarian, and breaking the practical barriers that a section of society faces is nothing short of service to humanity. Jenkins and her brand have indeed succeeded in reiterating the fact that fashion is for all, regardless of what they are or what they do.
“Diversity without disability isn’t diversity, it feels like it’s the last taboo. People are still scared of the D word. You know, disabled is not a bad word,” she said. The fact that being different is not something wrong, and that every individual reserves the freedom and natural right to enjoy life irrespective of their challenges or circumstances become evident in these words. Practical fashion is an avenue that needs to be paid more attention and brought to the frontlines, just as sustainability and environment-friendliness is now being infused into modern fashion trends.
A venture like Unhidden can be tagged as one right step towards highlighting the importance of practical clothes in the world of fashion. The name in itself is indicative of the fact that no person needs to hide from the world due to lack of practical options in any field, including fashion. Kudos to a world that will hopefully become more practical and inclusive with passage of time.