In retail, Adaptive Style, that is stylish product for those of us with ‘special’ needs, the purple pound market, is known to be a tricky market to crack despite its’ theoretically huge, hence should-be profitable, demographic.
In the almost two decades that I’ve been a non-standing wheelchair user, I’ve seen so many try to address the style vacuum in private sector disability products and almost all fail because it is next to impossible to design products at an appealing price point that are suitable for, and aesthetically satisfying to, a large enough percentage of that demographic to stay in business.
There are so many odds against those who try.
Each new start-up tends to address a specific that they feel passionate about – looking for others with the same issues and aesthetic. Even with the internet to help, that involves searching for a minority within a minority within another minority, across geographical boundaries. Hard work.
The psychology of thinking around such products is also a barrier that’s hard to address yet addressed it must be to make a successful business.
How many reading this winced at some of the terms I’ve used so far – adaptive, special needs, adaptivewear, making a profit, private sector, business? I could go on but wince many will at some of these words if not all as applied to the purple pound demographic.
There is a peculiar dichotomy in this market, in the U.K., where we want style, to live life on the same terms as everyone else but we don’t feel okay that profit should be made from those we think of as vulnerable; where we don’t want to define ourselves as ‘disabled’ or with ‘special needs’; where we don’t, and can’t afford to, pay privately for the higher costs associated with a product that will never be a mass market one.
Aren’t ‘special needs’ in the purple pound retail market the equivalent of Haute Couture versus high street in fashion? Not in nature but in design – if there is a requirement for tailoring a product, using different materials, sizing, design details, who pays for it?
Difficult, huh? Not many who’d want to grapple with this and yet, there are a few out there …
Take Wheeliechix-Chic for example. From the About Us page of their site:
Wheeliechix-Chic first came about in 2007. It was born out of frustration and disappointment in the high street.
I’ve been a wheelchair user all my adult life from an illness in my childhood of Rheumatoid Arthritis, as most of you know this can be painful and when you develop it as a child it tends to be much more aggressive and destroys normal joint tissue, so dressing and undressing was always an issue.
I do admit I went into this business with rose coloured spectacles and made many mistakes with the wrong designers and people with big egos. We did have an exciting launch a fashion show in London’s West End during London fashion week, all of my models are genuinely disabled and our first show in 2007 caught the eye of the media, they were excited and inspired by the fact my models were “different”
The Fashion Council back in those days refused to acknowledge us hence I had to launch my own show by myself, I’m happy to say 10 years on and the fashion industry is slowly starting to change and disabled models are sometimes seen on the catwalk.
For the last few years I haven’t been able to give Wheeliechix-Chic a 100% of my energy as I developed early stage cancer, although I have always worked throughout in another job role it was always niggling me at the back of my head to get it going again within the UK and so today I’m here launching some new ranges, plus some fabulous backpacks that will liven up any outfit or wheelchair.
Enjoy shopping at Wheeliechix-Chic!
I first reviewed Wheeliechix-Chic in 2009 here, on my old blog. Looking from then to now, the website and product offer seems much improved.
The product offer is limited in range, and not my style so I’m unlikely to buy. It does however, have a style that’s not no-style nor old-crone-style (as I – to my mind accurately – described most adaptive wear on yesterday’s blog post), see the images above.
I can see how it may be right up the aesthetic Street of others so I encourage you to click across and look for yourselves.
May the purple pounds unite and join me in wishing Louisa good luck in her relaunched venture 🥂