I am Ann Olivier and XENI is my brainchild, born of my frustration as a woman with progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS) who has been increasingly unable to find stylish clothing and accessories that work for my life as an independently-minded wheelchair user with impaired dexterity.
I have found that fashion is not considered for women who use wheelchairs. Adaptive clothing websites do not offer fashionable clothing and standard fashions have not been thought of for the seated figure. I find that generally my unexceptional girth is highlighted, my medical accoutrements exposed and that the clothes are impossible to put on, not being able to stand. I still want to be looking good in an unconventional but fashionable way sitting in my wheelchair.
Going out one evening I put on a dress that, as one would expect for somebody who could not stand, gathered uncomfortably in my lap. Without consciously thinking about it, I had a riveting idea. I would design garments that did not go under the seat. I would also address difficulties that I and many other women have with manipulating buttons and zips. I would use magnets. Today rare earth magnets are becoming more generally affordable and their use to fasten garments for this sort of disability seems completely appropriate, in fact it seems to be part of the zeitgeist, considering the present popularity of iPads and their beautifully designed magnetic covers.
Commencing with a range tailored for women like me - wheelchair users and those with a diverse range of mobility and dexterity issues - XENI exists to provide a stylish, and personalised, range of clothing, jewellery and accessories that will appeal to all woman of style.
Fashion is not considered by adaptive clothing providers. Neither, would it seem, is the way a woman is appreciated when sitting in her wheelchair constructively analysed.
Dexterity issues, which put buttons or zips out of our reach, are not generally considered and when they are, inelegant and uncomfortable Velcro is used.
We list aspects of dress important for wheelchair users, always bearing in mind thatwhatever one is wearing how vital ones hair, eye contact, smile and make-up are.
When sitting in a wheelchair it is the shoulders, bust and upper arms that are one’s major features, the lap becomes less important and the legs and feet fade into the background. It is how one creates presence when the body becomes foreshortened in this way that underpins our approach to designing for the fashionable woman in a wheelchair.
Use striking jewellery particularly around the neck and brooches (without those fiddly clasps).
JACKETS, COATS AND DRESSES
For those of us who have difficulty manipulating buttons and zips we use magnets to propel garments to close of their own volition.
For those of us unable to stand, a free seat allows our jackets, coats and dresses to be put on independently when seated. This is particularly relevant for jackets and coats, which by their very nature need to be put on and taken off frequently (all our garments are also provided complete).
TUNICS AND TROUSERS
Tunics and trousers give an elegant line to disguise lack of trunk condition, a common side effect of medications, immobility and wheelchair use.
Tunics and trousers are also essential for hiding prosthetic plumbing that many of us need.
Trousers are provided with extra length along the back line as well as made to your own length and hemmed at an angle to ensure that the hem when sitting hangs parallel to the ground.
Bags that do not fall off the lap of the wheelchair user, and allow easy access to personal items for those who have difficulty locating and grasping items in our bags.
I would be delighted to engage with my customers to design fashionable items that provide solutions for their as yet unrecognised requirements. I look forward to hearing what you want.