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NEWSLETTER

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  • Heather Cleal

'Normalising Inclusive Design': Unhidden Is Making Adaptive Clothing a Fashion Week Fixture


© Shot by Sammy Baxter


INJECTION catches up with the brand’s founder, Victoria Jenkins, following her sophomore showing at London Fashion Week.


Across the fashion capitals of New York, London, Milan, and Paris, the industry’s glamorous elite had their calendars crammed full with invitation-only shows and private parties. Typically a parade closed to outsiders, when considering the ever so stylish circus that is Fashion Week, inclusivity isn’t necessarily the first association that springs to mind. For Victoria Jenkins, the CEO and Founder of the socially-responsible and adaptive clothing brand Unhidden, forging a space for inclusive and accessible design was certainly no mean feat.


Despite a perceived progress, diminished inclusivity has proved incredibly frustrating to witness throughout recent seasons. When it comes to body diversity, there have been a number of noticeable backslides from major brands, and particularly across the Milan and Paris fashion weeks. It makes Unhidden’s journey all the more pertinent. Not to mention it appears a crucial misstep, with businesses losing out on £2 billion every month for ignoring the needs of disabled shoppers, according to Fashion Revolution. As Victoria shares though, London Fashion Week is only the beginning of a long road to greater representation.




It was during a hospital stay back in 2016 that Victoria first realised the necessity for adaptable clothing. Witnessing first-hand the frustration experienced by a fellow patient – a cancer survivor who had been left with a Stoma – Victoria knew there had to be an alternative. Yet for those with disabilities and chronic health conditions, a brand which offered equal comfort and dignity without sacrificing on style was nowhere to be found. As a previous garment technologist who herself became disabled during her 20s, Victoria went on to found Unhidden with the intention of making fashion for all.


Unhidden has certainly come a long way since its initial inception back on that hospital ward in 2016, yet Victoria is quick to point out that her brand wasn’t born overnight, “I tried initially to make Unhidden look so polished, people thought it was a huge company! I have, in fact, only just started taking people on in part time paid roles. If we just start from when Unhidden began trading, that's almost 3 years of running it solo.”


Fast forward, and the label has just hosted its second runway at London Fashion Week, showcasing its latest collection of sophisticated and empowering garments. For Victoria, it proved an apt opportunity to demonstrate the brand’s growth, “We learned a lot from February [London Fashion Week AW23] about how to build a better experience for our models, crew and audience. Unfortunately we also had less budget, so we had to be super creative! There were parts of the planning stage we did differently: we allowed more time to get everyone covid tested and inside the venue (albeit we didn't nail the queue experience!), and then when it comes to the new collection itself I allowed myself a bit more freedom there too.”


The clothes themselves were a mix of crisp, chic workwear and statement palettes. But what were Victoria’s personal favourites? “The jumpsuit is definitely right up there as well as the wide leg pink trousers,” she enthuses. “So much got built into the jumpsuit that I am super proud of. From tube access to chest ports, to being able to go to the bathroom without removing the whole jumpsuit, and all of the models looked sensational in it if I may say so. Then the pink trousers just hark back to my tailoring days – the fabric and colour is simply gorgeous. Oh gosh and the suits!! I loved those too.”


© Shot by Fil Mazzarino


Unhidden’s mission goes far beyond representation on the runway; it remains focused on forging inclusive spaces and opportunities across the creative industry, and society more broadly. Victoria doesn’t shy away from our current reality though, “Unfortunately, I think there is still a horribly long way to go; representation is getting marginally better 'front of house', but I see no change in the hiring practice or attitudes of brands and their head offices. Nothing will really change until we are given the same opportunities to enter the creative industries and are represented at every level. This also includes access to universities and schools, and an overhauling of the curriculum and building infrastructure. There is no quick fix, but there is also no good reason to delay any longer. Disability isn't going anywhere!


Whilst London has long held the reputation as the fashion capital most open to emerging design talent, Victoria hopes that soon she will be able to take her shows further afield: “I would love to show around the world! And to work with disabled, chronic sick and visibly different models in their home countries. Because there are cultural shifts needed globally and I think it's important people around the world experience the fun and joy of a runway whether it's Unhidden or other brands – or better yet lots of brands!



It’s clear that what the industry really needs is more talent like Victoria, with the ability to raise awareness, but also the potential to alter the industry itself via universal designs. For those in the early stages of launching a brand, what would be her advice? “The key is to engage and reach out with your intended audience. Whether you're asking for feedback, insights, what people do and don't like. Running polls on stories, for example, is a really quick way to learn if people like or dislike something, and they can nudge you if you're going down the wrong path. Invite people in as well; people relate to people, so making sure that you as the founder are visible helps. How people interact is very different if they think it's a faceless brand versus an actual human being.”


Unhidden has thus far succeeded in providing a platform to a community often overlooked within fashion and design. The question now though, is whether the industry can finally open its doors and usher in such long overdue change.



Find Unhidden on their website and Instagram.


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