Fashion graduate creates innovative adaptive clothing brand promoting inclusivity in fashion

27 June 2024

Accessible clothing range inspired by her own experience using a wheelchair

A broken ankle, temporary use of a wheelchair and frustration at a lack of accessible clothing options inspired Manchester Met fashion graduate Ellie Brown to design an innovative adaptive clothing business to give people with disabilities better wardrobe choices.

After graduating from BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Technology at Manchester Met’s Manchester Fashion Institute in 2023, Brown has been developing her business Recondition which aims to create fashionable and sustainable adaptive clothing for people living with disabilities.

Alongside the clothing range, which is due to launch later this year, Recondition is building a community with its consumers by hosting a programme of inclusive events.

This has included a charity catwalk showcasing adaptive clothing on models living with disabilities and an ‘in conversation’ event to raise awareness about inclusivity in fashion.

Brown was inspired to set up Recondition after she accidentally fell and suffered a badly broken ankle resulting in her using a wheelchair for several months during her recovery.

Image of clothing from fashion brand Recondition
Inspired by her own experience of using a wheelchair, Ellie set up Recondition to give people with disabilities better wardrobe choices (Image: Thea Holmes)

This experience opened her eyes to the everyday challenges faced by people living with disabilities, from the limited clothing choices available to finding places she would regularly visit not being accessible anymore.

Brown said: “Recondition aims to design stylish clothing that look like what’s available to buy on the high street for non-disabled people but adapting it so that people living with disabilities can access a wider range of clothing. We try to problem-solve small details that hold people back from having independence when they wear the average item of clothing to create an easier and improved experience for the consumer.

“We undertook extensive research that revealed people living with disabilities felt like they aren’t seen and are excluded from the fashion industry. Alongside making more meaningful products, it was also important for me to raise awareness through my business by hosting inclusive and accessible events for our community.”

Recondition aims to be a user-centred brand which involves its consumers within the design process to ensure that products are both suitable for their needs and something they would enjoy wearing.

The brand uses sustainable materials and makes simple adaptations to swap out buttons and zips for easier to use fastenings to make garments more accessible for consumers who might struggle with the traditional fastenings you often find on trousers, skirts, and outerwear.

The fabrication and fit was also key to the design process, something which can often cause discomfort for the wearer, with considerations including where the pockets are positioned, or how the seams are put together to make a difference for wheelchair users.

Image from inclusive event hosted by fashion brand Recondition
Recondition is building a community with its consumers by hosting a programme of inclusive events (Image: Mollie Lee)

Brown was recently awarded funding from Innovate UK to help develop the first product for market with the aim of launching product by the end of this year.  

She first started to develop Recondition while studying for her degree at Manchester Fashion Institute where she learned beneficial skills involved in the production of fashion product, skills which she uses day-to-day now.

Brown also attended a business bootcamp run by Manchester Met’s start-up incubator Innospace where she gained valuable skills and the confidence to start up her business straight after graduating.

Katie Greenwood, Lecturer in Fashion Design at Manchester Met, said: “During her final year of studies, Ellie demonstrated exceptional drive and integrity in realising her goals. From her initial research, reaching out to understand the lived experience of her target consumers and developing the technical adaptivity of her designs, to her catwalk casting of models with different disabilities, she was determined to execute her project to the highest standard.

“It is impressive to see her continued ambition as she establishes her design business whilst simultaneously building a community and platform for her customers.”

Manchester Met is celebrating its 200-year anniversary in 2024 and this month is looking at how creative excellence has been championed across two centuries – and continues to shape the industry today.

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