Patti + Ricky: Curating Fashion for the Disabled

                                              Image courtesy of mashable.com

As the fashion global market continues to expand and fashion saturation reaches a breaking point, there is much talk bandied around in fashion circles about inclusivity and the new democratization of fashion. Where once great fashion was only for the wealthy and the slender, fashion is now making attempts to provide affordable fashion for the masses, as well as embracing plus-sized consumers, consumers of color, and even gender, non-specific consumers.Unfortunately, one population that has been left out of this fashion democratization is the disabled community. Probably, because the fashion industry and retailers don’t consider that people with disabilities care about fashion or that some consumers with special needs have deep pockets. (Tommy Hifiger being one exception.) However, there is lots of hope for this community on the horizon.

Patti + Ricky is looking to change all that. As an online shopping experience that caters to people with disabilities, Alexandra Connell, the founder of the site, has curated great fashionable; quality product for this often ignored population.

Alexandra Connell with great passion and joy spoke with Fashion Reverie about her journey to establish this great service for this special needs community. 

 Wheelchair raincoat image courtesy of Patti + Ricky

Fashion Reverie: Both of your parents worked in luxury retail in the 80s and 90s, yet you thought you would never work in fashion or had no interest in the industry, why?

Alexandra Connell: Both my parents worked for SWATCH watches in the 1980s, and in the 90s my mom was the president of Kenneth Cole belt division. Later in 2000 my mom started her own company, Spreadology. And at one time my father was the president of Christian Dior jewelry.

I always wanted to work with people and help people. I was drawn to helping people with disabilities because of my ADHD disability. I was also caretaker for my mother when she was diagnosed with brain cancer. So, when my mom got really ill and was asking for specific clothing items to wear, I couldn’t find things for her. When I finally was able to find the things that she wanted, my mom was so happy. Additionally, my cousin Ricky has been confined to a wheelchair his entire life so finding clothing and fashionable things for a person who was wheelchair bound was a huge challenge. So, all these things infused and informed me when I started my online shopping store, Patty + Ricky.

FR: You have called yourself a fashion disruptor, why?

Alexandra Connell: I guess I am a fashion disruptor because there was no place in the fashion market to get fashionable clothes for people with disabilities. So I guess in some sense with Patti + Ricky I am disrupting old patterns of leaving disabled people out or not providing great fashion for people with disabilities.

With Patti + Ricky, I wanted to bring designers together who create garments and products for people with disabilities and create a beautiful shopping experience. 

FR: Why the name Patti + Ricky?

Alexandra Connell: Every product that we curate I am always thinking of my mother and my cousin Ricky and the disabilities that they had. I really wanted to pay homage to them and I know that if my mom and my cousin like the products that I have curated, a lot of other people will like these products as well. So I am always thinking about them as I am curating products that are finely crafted with good quality. And of course their names are the names of the site.

                                              Images courtesy of Patti + Ricky

FR: Could you explain adaptive fashion?

Alexandra Connell: Adaptive fashion is fashion that has different functions and works for communities that have a variety of needs. A lot of the product we curate and offer is universally designed so it can work for many different people that have many different needs. For example, our shirts with magnetic buttons are very adaptable and useful for people who have arthritis or someone having difficulty buttoning their shirts. Laura Horton makes our magnetic shirts, and she initially designed these shirts for her husband who has Parkinson’s disease. So, these shirts are for people that have dexterity issues.

FR: How do people with disabilities suffer from style discrimination? 

Alexandra Connell: I discovered that when my mom got ill with brain cancer there was nothing on the market for her that was both fashionable and functional. I really searched and I couldn’t find much. Now, ten years later that is starting to change. We work with over 40 designers on our site that offer product for people with disabilities in an environment that mimics a virtual department store.

FR: You have some interesting items that you offer like wheelchair bags crutch accessories. How do you curate the items you offer on the site? 

Alexandra Connell: From the beginning I really wanted to find things for people with a lot of different needs. I knew I wanted bags for people who used wheelchairs. Now we have a suggestion section on our website and consumers write us and tell us the about things they want that are stylish, as well as accessible product they are looking for. And we try to find it for them.

FR: What are your price points and the range of products?

Alexandra Connell: All of our product is high quality and mostly made in the US. The range is price is from moderate to higher priced items because our product for the most part is made stateside. We also have great customer service that works with consumers individually to meet their shopping needs.

                                         Images courtesy of Patti + Ricky

FR: What are some of your best selling items?

Alexandra Connell: Our best selling products go across the board because we offer a wide range of products for specific needs. Our decorative arm slings for people who have suffered strokes or have a broken arm sell extremely well; particularly, for those people who are going to galas and special events. Our braille jewelry is very popular because you can personalize a message on the jewelry. And our wheelchair bags also sell very well.

FR: Are there are any disabilities that you have not been able to provide fashionable product for?

Alexandra Connell: We are currently searching for a lot of different things to meet specific needs. We are looking colostomy bag covers so we hope to be meeting that need soon because we get a lot of requests for that.

FR: How are you looking to grow and expand your business?

Alexandra Connell: We are always looking to grow and partner with designers who can meet our customers’ needs. We are doing a pop-up shop in NYC for people with disabilities that should launch in the early fall. This will be one of the first stores for people with disabilities. It will be specifically designed for people with disabilities with large aisles for people in wheelchairs and braille on the hangers for folks with sight disabilities. This pop-up shop will be inclusive, beautiful. We hope this will lead to other pop-up shops around the country, maybe even in department stores.

—William S. Gooch

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