Supporting and championing disabled designers is one of my happy things to do. It’s up there with cuddling puppies and drinking the perfect temperature hot chocolate. You know what I mean you chocolate officionados.
London Fashion Week starts this week, and it gives me a great chance to support a close friend of Neo Walk – Victoria Jenkins of Unhidden. Our paths crossed when she held her first pop up shop in London a couple of years ago – which incidentally inspired me to have my first pop up as well. She is talented, bubbly and funny, but most of all she is so passionate about what she does. This is where we connect most. Spend an hour in her company and you will leave re-energised. Often pissed too!
Victoria is a garment technologist with 14 years experience in the fashion industry who became disabled in her 20s.
She founded Unhidden after a chance encounter with a woman with cancer that changed the course of her life. This is Unhidden’s story, in Victoria’s words.
“I have worked with many household name brands – from the high street to high end – over my career. When I became disabled, it should have been then that I realised that none of my old clothes adjusted to my new needs.
But it was during a 10-day hospital stay in 2016 that I met a fellow patient who changed the course of my life and switched on the light bulb.
She had survived cancer, but she was left with multiple other conditions. She had openings in her stomach to release waste (called a stoma) and she also had lines in her arm to deliver medicine and she was in hospital to have a chest port fitted.
Every time the doctors came round she had to remove all her clothing, usually in front of a team of doctors. She couldn’t even access her own stoma, arm line or chest port without removing clothing or exposing herself in some way throughout her daily life.
Pyjama tops and loungewear were her only options – but she told me she wanted to dress in nicer clothes – but nothing would adapt.
I remember watching her from the other side of the ward and thinking ‘there must be companies out there to help’ but Google returned few results. It was then, in that hospital, in front of that amazing lady that the idea of Unhidden was born.”
This is often the way with entrepreneurs. Necessity is the mother of invention. Designers are just people who recognise a need and commit to filling that gap. Victoria is doing exactly that and we wish her so much luck.
As a disabled person living in a world not designed for me in a wheelchair, I look forward to seeing many more designers set their sights on some of those other gaps that need filling!
Unhidden will be hosting their London Fashion Week event on Friday 17th February 2023 at Kurt Keiger HQ in London. Follow her on Instagram @unhidden.uk