Tag Archives: ann oliver

Designer Ann Oliver to Engage Other Designers in New Project

10 Dec

Pants outfit by Ann Oliver. Part of her Xeni Collection, xenicollection.com.

UK designer Ann Oliver, a pioneer in couture for disabled women, is engaging in a new kind of outreach: she plans to gather talented designers from Not Just a Label and have them design one piece for her Xeni Collection  each season. Doing so, Mrs. Oliver reasons, gives up-and-coming designers greater exposure to the market as well as expanded horizons composing garments for a particular niche.

“The time is right, now, when we have a unique opportunity, established with such guts and determination by sportsmen and women from across the globe. It is time to bring designing for [disabled women] into the mainstream. I have a dream that every designer at London Fashion Week would include one outfit in every collection for women facing our challenges,”  Mrs. Oliver comments in her blog.

Stricken with multiple sclerosis over 20 years ago, Ann Oliver learned firsthand the challenges of battling with buttons, hooks, and other conventional fastenings. She also discovered that standard clothing options were not properly cut for seated wearers: the garments provided neither comfort nor coverage, let alone style. An architect, she enrolled in a London college to learn clothing design, and Xeni took root.


As disabled women, we are well aware of the difficulties our conditions impose on us, whether we are able to work or not. Ann Oliver is one of us, who changed careers in mid-life to work for us: as I commented in an October post, this is a daunting task. This holiday season, give yourself a treat and visit her site at xenicollection.com. It is inspiring to see what Mrs. Oliver does, and you’ll want to add an outfit or two to your wish list.  Spread the word!


Fashion for us–A new, supportive community

9 Oct

Ever passed up a terrific ensemble because it wasn’t designed for wheelchair users? Or, like me, have you given up on skirts and dresses because the orthotic-friendly shoes your disability requires look better with pants? Welcome to wefly2, a place for disabled women to dish about fashion fixes, wishes, inspirations–and empowerment.

I am not a fashion pro of any kind. But while watching What Not To Wear (which I love) and seeing loads of stilettos and wedges, I couldn’t help wondering,”How would Stacy and Clinton dress someone who can’t wear shoes like that?” I would also like to see a challenge on Project Runway requiring designers to create an outfit for disabled models, perhaps veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project.

These thoughts, as well as my own disability (peripheral neuropathy) brought wefly2 into existence. Not disabled? I still want to hear from you. Designers, caregivers, family members, home sewers, and many others doubtless have insight into our fashion needs. On this blog, the forums are as important as my posts; all I ask is that we avoid the sniping, uber-bitchy commentary found in some areas of the fashion world. As we meet here to share and explore, let’s keep our tone classy and cordial.

In some corners of the planet–yes, this one!–designers are making clothes for us, and fashion shows are featuring disabled models. More about that later! Stay tuned, and welcome to wefly2!


U.K. Designer Shows the World How It’s Done

9 Oct

Couture represents fashion without limits.” —Nina Garcia, October issue of Marie Claire, p. 92

photo from xenicollection.com, rpt. from ecouterre/inhabitat.

Until now, disabled women have not been privy to the boundless creativity Ms.Garcia praises in her description of Paris Fashion Week. Fortunately for us, UK architect-turned-designer Ann Oliver is changing that.

Stricken with multiple sclerosis over 20 years ago, Ms. Oliver discovered her disability kept her from going to the theater, which she loved. The problem? Clothing that was both chic and comfortable in a wheelchair was nonexistent. What really inspired her to design, according to an interview with Jenn Viane on trendhunter.com, was her desire for a dress she could slip on by herself, without standing up. So then-architect Ann Oliver enrolled in a design course at a London college, and her new career took root.

Featuring “free seats,” which she described in the Viane interview as portions of garments that “do not go underneath the bottom,” Ms. Oliver’s wheelchair-friendly ensembles draw attention away from the wearer’s lap and up toward the shoulders and face (see accompanying photo). Her Xeni line also employs magnetic closures to make dressing easier for women who have trouble with buttons and hooks.

Ms.Oliver’s collection includes fashions for amputees and ambulatory disabled women as well. Her clothing can be viewed and ordered at xenicollection.com.

Illness, inspiration, and a career switch: this would be a daunting journey for anyone. Ann Oliver not only traveled this road but has brought style and wearability to clothing designed specifically for disabled women, a frequently ignored minority. Will designers in the US follow her lead?