Fashion brand creator who suffers from multiple health conditionsJune 5, 2022
Fashion designer with chronic health issues creates adapted clothing for people with disabilities – including tailored trousers for wheelchair users and tops that open up for IV drips
- Victoria Jenkins, 36, from Islington, London, started Unhidden in 2017
- Her aim was to create clothes for disabled people that would be comfortable
- Has worked in fashion industry since 2008 and has multiple health conditions
A fashion brand creator with chronic health issues has brand that produces adapted clothing for disabled people.
Victoria Jenkins, 36, from Islington, London, is the founder of Unhidden, which subtly tweaks popular styles to make them suitable for people with a range of needs, like trousers specifically tailored to fit wheelchair users.
There is also a layered dress to give easy access to stoma bags and shirts that open at the arm to make the shoulder and upper arm area accessible to people who need IV drips or other treatments like chemotherapy.
Victoria, who previously worked for brands like Victoria Beckham, has a number of conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and irritable bowel syndrome, which cause symptoms including stomach pain, tiredness, bloating, and a change in bowel habits.
She made the decision to start Unhidden to help others like her, who also struggle to wear tight clothing and with dressing, after seeing someone with a stoma needing to remove their clothes to receive treatment.
Victoria Jenkins, 36, from Islington, London, is the founder of Unhidden, which subtly tweaks popular styles to make them suitable for people with a range of needs, like trousers specifically tailored to fit wheelchair users
Victoria has designed Unhidden’s clothing with discreet and hidden adaptations, compared to medical adaptive clothing, meaning that most people cannot see them it looks like everyone else’s clothing
She realised there were very few clothing options for disabled people which were not loungewear or pyjamas and wanted to create clothes to give them back their dignity.
‘My stomach expands and contracts throughout the day and it cannot tolerate being restricted, for example in tight woven fabrics with no stretch in a waistband,’ she told FEMAIL.
‘Anything that might cut in or restrict movement is a nightmare for me and anything that requires a lot of twisting around to get it on I cannot twist so if I cannot pull it on or the fastening is not on the side I cannot wear it.’
Victoria graduated from London fashion school Istituto Marangoni and landed a job at a number of brands including Victoria Beckham.
However she found an overall lack of understanding towards her medical needs.
All of Unhidden’s clothes are made from deadstock/surplus fabric left over from other brands that would otherwise have gone to landfill. The clothing, shown here at London Fashion Week, includes wrap tops that can be tied at the front or back which have winged sleeves for ease of arm movement and silk shirts which allow access to arm ports
Victoria said the problem of inclusivity in the fashion industry is a ‘huge problem’ to fix but said ‘someone’s got to start somewhere’
‘There were a few days I just felt really unwell and I spent quite a lot of time seeing a lot of doctors,’ she said. ‘They [her employers] weren’t always great about it. It’s like nothing could ever be late or delayed because of it.’
After her stay in hospital in 2012 when a stomach ulcer burst and she was later diagnosed with conditions including gastroparesis, IBS and IBD, she felt she was often a burden to the team.
It became increasingly difficult and frustrating for Victoria, even when she worked remotely.
‘They absolutely checked up on you. That in itself was very stressful because obviously it was people trying to prove you are doing something.
Victoria’s collection has featured at London Fashion Week and she is passionate about inclusivity, working with models with disabilities to showcase her clothing, aiming for accessibility within fashion. Pictured is one of her pieces at London Fashion Week
She added: ‘When you’re getting really sick some of the time you just want to say “Can’t I just be sick?”‘
Victoria made the decision to go freelance in 2017 and founded Unhidden.
Although running her own business is stressful, she explained that being her own boss also has its bonuses.
‘I have good and bad days running Unhidden,’ she said. ‘Because I work from home sometimes I need to have a bath. Sometimes I’ll just need to lie down for an hour and I can do that because I work for myself.’
There has been an Unhidden pop-up shop in Oxford Street in 2021 and is available to buy online.
The wrap tops can also be used for discreet tube access and wheelchair users. The adaptations to the clothing are subtle and look like everyone else’s clothing, allowing for dignity and differing to medically adapted clothing
Unhidden pieces cost between £30 and £90. Victoria hopes to bring down the price point once she can afford factory minimums for production runs.
The designs are made from deadstock/surplus fabric left over from other brands that would otherwise have gone to landfill.
Victoria also hopes to bring a change to the fashion industry as a whole.
She said: ‘I think there needs to be some kind of mandate or policy change. I think fashion businesses need to be far more transparent on how many disabled employees they have.
‘I know I never saw a wheelchair user anywhere that I’ve ever worked. They’ve done so much when it comes to mental health but not disabilities. I think they have lots of mental health first aiders that they train. Capitalism is quite ableist in itself.’
Source: Read Full Article