AFTER years of working in the aged and disability industries, Caring Clothing director Serena Gove saw a gap in the market for fashionable, comfortable, well-wearing adaptive clothing; and she hasn’t really looked back since. The loss of mobility – or restricted mobility due to disability, illness or injury – impacts people in many more ways than just their day-to-day functions. Dressing and clothing selection can become a massive issue, something which in turn can cause people to lose part of their self-identity.
It was this particular issue that caused Serena to launch her business in the world of adaptive clothing; fashionable clothing items that provides solutions such as back and side openings for ease of dressing, and cleverly disguised Velcro. With a wide range of styles – many of which would not be out of place in a fashion store on the high street – and great quality, well-wearing fabrics, it is practically impossible to tell someone is wearing an item of adaptive clothing from looks alone.
The concept for her business was hammered home when a long-term friend was diagnosed with MS and became wheelchair bound. Serena says one of her frustrations was there was nothing fashionable to wear, she couldn’t find clothes that were accommodating and suited her special needs, while also making her still feel good about the way she looked. “She just wanted to look groovy and funky,” she says. “But there was nothing in the market place. I wanted to create somewhere people could come to find clothing to suit them – regardless of age and regardless of ailment.”
It has been a labour of love bringing the business the fruition. While the first official shipments landed at the start of 2017, Serena has been working tirelessly on designs, checking sizes, quality control and manufacturing for the past two years. Checking in with target groups to ascertain if the designs were practical and functional, as well as good looking, was an arduous process, but an extremely important one
For Serena, it isn’t about the age – it is about being made to feel good within yourself, no matter what you’re wearing. “People’s style is their self-identity,” she says. “They still want to feel youthful and express who they are, rather than just dressing for ease. Often the ease takes out the fashion and the fun. That is what we are trying to bring back. It is really important to me, the way we express ourselves is the way we dress. I don’t see why, because we get to a certain age, or we might need assistance, that we can’t maintain that self-identity throughout our lives. I often think it is such a struggle for people to lose their independence anyway, that looking good can just help make them feel that little bit better. Regardless whether you are a young person with a disability, someone with an ailment, or you are going into an aged care facility, you should still have that choice to be able to dress the way you would like. For me, if I feel I look good, I feel good.”