Lucy Jones is the designer making accessories accessible by putting disability first. The designer’s graduate collection, Seated Design, sought to make fashion adaptable and functional for wheelchair users. Graduating in 2015 from Parsons fashion design course, she won the highly regarded “Womenswear Designer of the Year” award for the collection. The following year, Jones was named in the Forbes 30 under 30 class of 2016. Therefore, already proving to be one to watch.
Her pieces are interchangeable with an altering fit and shift in proportions. To enable a sleeker, more comfortable style, Jones has removed excess fabric and created extra fabric around the kneecaps and elbows. Her collection, exclusively for wheelchair users, has incorporated longer zips and magnets to make dressing much easier.
Following the success of her graduate collection, the MoMA commissioned Jones to create a “Seated Pantyhose” for its second ever fashion exhibition, “Items: Is Fashion Modern?”. The final garment is the first of its kind and a real sign of change for inclusive fashion. The pantyhose aims to be both comfortable and elegant, but first, accessible. With two zippers at the side seams and a dropped crotch, the garment can contract and expand accordingly.
Bringing disability to the forefront
So, fast-forward to 2020 and Jones has created her own brand. Moving away from adaptive clothing, Jones is focussing her attention on accessories. FFORA, originating from the Latin word forum, creates beautiful, functional accessories for wheelchair users. Her mission at FFORA is to bring disability to the forefront. Whilst the range of products are designed to be used by all with their adaptable features, they are primarily designed for seated individuals.
The affordable accessories range from £12 cup-holders to leather bags up to £95. You can purchase popular items in sets, giving individuals the option for various solutions to everyday lifestyle problems. Attachments accompany the items to enable them to simply slot onto 180+ models of manual wheelchairs. The aim is to make life easier whilst also having the choice of a stylish, functional option. Additional bag straps also accompany the essential purses and bags, meaning you can wear them in multiple ways to suit you.
Working with wheelchair-users
In their mission to put disability first and create accessible lifestyle products for all, FFORA work hand in hand with a wide-ranging variety of wheelchair users. Fellow creatives and disability advocates join forces with the brand to create the best possible outcomes. Invaluable knowledge and advice from people who have typically been ignored within the fashion industry is essential. So, using real-life experiences to create functional designs, the brand has a fool-proof design process.
Sportsmen such as Steve Serio, Team USA wheelchair basketball gold medallist, and Nathan Stephens, Welsh born three time Paralympian. In addition, disabled artist, Jerron Herman, and fashion consultant Jourdie Godley have also become faces for the brand. This combination of well recognised Paralympian’s alongside lesser known seated creatives, makes the brand inclusive and accessible.
Alongside this, FFORA welcomes people with disabilities within their company structure and aims to find leadership roles and collaborations to create a more inclusive workplace. Prompting others in the industry to do the same, FFORA is leading the way for accessible fashion.
Systemic change and social awareness
People with disabilities make up 15% of the world’s population (1.2 billion people). Despite this, they are often completely forgotten within the diversity conversations surrounding fashion. Shops lay outs are explicitly for the able-bodied and often shop assistants are ignorant to the needs of disabled people. With FFORA and Lucy Jones aiming to spark a conversation within the fashion industry and wider, how can we really start to help?
Perhaps an overdue conversation between designers and people with disabilities. A shift in perspective coming from designers, forcing them to adapt and expand their ideas and ranges could propel the industry into systemic change. Collaborations with disabled people alongside other diversity frontiers would show real inclusivity in the traditionally exclusive fashion environment.
As consumers, we can support accessible fashion through our own conversations, social media platforms and charities. Above all, we can educate ourselves about the needs and everyday difficulties disabled people face as a result of an ignorant fashion industry. Through this we can create a new social awareness with more people becoming mindful of other people’s experiences. So, by removing the social misconceptions around disability, we can remove the design bias that follows.