From models in reptilian masks (have you seen a lime green lizard with pierced eyebrows?!) to busses with eggshells, you’ll truly see it all at New York Fashion Week. But when designer Alexa Jovanovic looked at the 2023 shows, she struggled to find something she wanted.
“I’m always looking forward to seeing how much disability inclusion is actually involved,” says Jovanovic. News week. “I was very disappointed in this year’s fashion week in terms of disability.”
The 28-year-old is transforming the space with her own brand, Isle Design, which was created to make the space more inclusive. The unique clothing line, called “The Eye,” features fully legible Braille decals.
“[Aille] “It’s more than just a clothing brand,” Jovanovic said. “We’re creating a braille fashion movement and that means bringing representation to all aspects of disability and inclusion.”
Designed for inclusion, accessibility
Her team works with visually impaired individuals to design new pieces and braille messages that end up on t-shirts, shirt collars, apparel and more. At first the message is a physical description of the item and how to care for it – think of a clothing label. It has since expanded and includes motivational phrases such as “diversity includes disability” and customized messaging.
Jovanovic wanted to create a product that was accessible and easy to wear, especially for people with disabilities. The fabric requires no ironing, is machine washable and is designed for walking, making it ideal for those with guide dogs or canes. Although it was created with the visually impaired in mind, the garment is for everyone. Since launching three years ago, the brand now offers handmade jackets, dresses, sweaters, pants and more in Buffalo, New York.
Aile’s signature piece, the Blue Dress, took him over two years to design and describes the blue from the perspective of ten blind women.
“We worked closely with these ten women to learn about their personal experiences,” Jovanovic said. With the phrase, she asks each woman what the dress represents and what they want to make it as accessible as possible. The finished product displays these stories in Braille on the front of the shirt. The dress is made using over 2,600 beads and the back is designed with a long zip for easy access.
How it started
Isle Design began as a research project in college, Jovanovic recalls sharing the details with her friend Jake Walsh on their first date.
“I submitted our patent application for a few pieces and he was very excited from day one,” she said.
“I thought it was great,” Walsh said, recalling their time at the art museum. “I was very impressed that she was doing all this work and that she was patenting and developing this unique idea herself from the beginning.”
Fast forward six years, the two are now married and in business together. Jovanovic focuses on the design and creative end, while Walsh takes care of the business.
“To be able to do this as a team effort is amazing,” Jovanovic said.
The two entities plan to partner with major companies in the space to raise awareness of disability inclusion and look forward to seeing more representation at the airport next year.
Leave a Reply