Opposites: Disability is not a Barrier

By Jo Phillips

Illustration by Garfield Li
Illustrations by Garfield Li, MA Fashion student at Kingston University

Disability is an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental; but it should not be an impairment to style, proclaims Kingston University MA Fashion student Garfield Li, who has envisioned creative concepts for a range of clothing that is sophisticated and stylish yet particularly comfortable and functional for wheelchair users.

The 26 year old, who was inspired by a visit to a children’s hospice near Luton, explains, ‘I met a boy in a wheelchair whose mother had cut the back out of his jacket so it was more comfortable for him to wear.’ Garfield says that clothing designed for disabled people tend to look ‘quite old fashioned’ and ‘very medical’. Influenced by 18th Century Parisian Fashion, his range is made in light, slightly stretchy fabrics for ease of movement creating a chic feminine fluid look.

Illustration by Garfield Li
Illustrations by Garfield Li, MA Fashion student at Kingston University

‘I wanted to design a collection that would really appeal to young women, whether disabled or not, but that would also address the specific needs of people with spinal conditions,’ he says. To avoid garments riding up the wheels of the wheelchair, he carefully controls the length of skirts and dresses. The back middle panel of jackets are removed, so that it is comfortable to wear when sitting on the wheelchair as well as easy to put on and take off.

The collection has been awarded the top prize at the WestFocus Bright Ideas competition and Garfield’s dream now is to turn his illustrations to clothing women can buy all over the U.K.