Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri has created haute couture clothing for decades. She has recently taken her talent in a brilliant new direction. Izzy is the brainchild behind IZ Adaptive, the adaptive clothing collection for people with physical disabilities who use wheelchairs. Ultimately, Izzy would like to make dressing easy and enjoyable for all people with physical disabilities.
Q: Izzy, what made you transition from designing haute couture to designing adaptive clothing?
A: With the downturn of the economy, and the fashion business being very tough in Canada, I had to make some changes. I love fashion and I wanted to continue designing, but I also wanted my future endeavors to be more meaningful. During this time I was asked to design a cape for Barb Turnbull, a journalist at a major Canadian newspaper. Barb has a physical disability, [a type of paralysis known as] quadriplegia. Working with Barb was invigorating, challenging and rewarding, and it made me seriously think about designing an adaptive line, which I did in the Spring of 2009.
Q: Who is the IZ Adaptive consumer?
A: The IZ Adaptive client is seated. He or she feels that dressing is important and expresses a sense of style. They want to dress as they did before they were in their chair, if a chair is new to them, or they want to dress like everyone else.
Q: What does the IZ Adaptive Collection consist of?
A: For both men and women, we have classic pieces that cover all the basics, such as jeans, dress pants, shirts and blazers. We have winter coats in both fabrics and leather. For bath time, hospital visits, or just wanting to feel cozy, we have bathrobes. For women, we’ve just introduced accessories, eveningwear and bridal wear. There is also a selection of alterations. We can alter anything you purchase.
Q: How can consumers with disabilities encourage mainstream fashion designers to develop collections for wheelchair users, people with arthritis, scoliosis, prostheses and any other disability that makes dressing difficult?
A: For more designers to do this I think they have to have a personal history with it first to understand what the needs are. This is the only way they can truly wrap their head around designing adaptive clothing. I also think it’s important to do it right in terms of not having back pockets and thinking about things that can actually harm someone … It’s unfortunate that more designers don’t see the need and value of designing adaptive clothing.
Q: Where do you see IZ Adaptive in five years?
A: I see the line being sold globally and being THE line of adaptive clothing for all people with physical disabilities. The line will soon add shoes, undergarments, children’s wear and much more.
Q: Tell me more about IZ Adaptive’s commitment to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation?
A: The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation has done incredible work and I feel that their mission is similar to mine. We have a T-shirt, which was designed by Sophie Morgan, a woman who is a paraplegic. All proceeds from the sale of the T-shirt go to the foundation, which helps thousands of people living with disabilities.
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