Chloe Ball-Hopkins: Inclusive Fashion
Posted by: The personal injury help and advice team
Chloe Ball-Hopkins (22) is a Great Britain Paralympian, born with Arthogryposis, which means she was born without hips and her feet were bent up to her shins. At four years old she was also diagnosed with a form of Muscular Dystrophy called Nemaline Myopathy.
Chloe has recently featured in the news after emailing online fashion retailer, ASOS, last August, urging them to make fashion accessible for everybody. ASOS and Chloe worked together to design a waterproof jumpsuit, a product which launched this season.
Hi Chloe, thanks so much for speaking with us today! We’re really excited about your recent ASOS collaboration and have so many questions to ask, so let’s get started…
Growing up, you must have felt limitations when looking for clothing, what limitations did you encounter and how did you deal with them?
There were times when I was younger when I had to wear a hip spica cast and when your cast is chest to toe, it’s quite hard to find clothes to fit over that. I didn’t want to go out and about in a spica (and almost like a nappy on) but I thought, “I’m not just sitting in the house in a cast with a blanket on!”
We had to try to find ways to adapt, so my Nan would buy a load of boxer pants and cut up the sides and Velcro them because there’s a bar between your knees in a spica. She went out and bought me skirts and did the same thing so I could at least put clothes on to go out.
That was the extreme side of things, I was literally clutching at straws just to be able to put on a pair of knickers. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more fashion conscious, I’m in a chair more and I do struggle to find things that look right on me.
It’s frustrating because on one occasion I could go into a high street store and they’ve got a blouse that’s the right length, the right neck and nice sleeves but that’s just a once off, like that wasn’t meant to be there, it just happened to work.
‘somebody actually has to do something about this and not just sit and complain about it’ – so that’s what I did!
What did you think to the clothing available online specifically designed for people with disabilities?
If you look for clothes online that are meant for people with disabilities, I think they’re targeted towards the older generation who are looking more for practicality, not for people like myself who are 22 years old and working in an industry where you’re judged on what you’re wearing.
I started to think ‘somebody actually has to do something about this and not just sit and complain about it’ – so that’s what I did!
What was the final straw for you that pushed you to contact retailers with your idea?
The first item I’ve created with ASOS is a waterproof jumpsuit because I went to a festival last summer, dressed all nicely in a pair of culottes and crop top, glitter in my hair (and even managed to convince my boyfriend to put some glitter on his face too!) I was sat there enjoying it and it just started pouring down with rain, I thought I’ll get my waterproof hoody out which I got from Disneyland Paris; it has a nice Minnie Mouse on it but I like the way it worked. It was just a hoody but happened to be waterproof! But then it was getting too wet, my lap was getting wet so my boyfriend went off to the car to get an umbrella and came back with a plastic sheet which my chair would go inside when it was wet and I had to sit wrapped up in this plastic sheet just to keep dry.
I had to sit wrapped up in this plastic sheet just to keep dry and I thought “right, I’ve had enough of this.”
When it got towards the end of the evening, I still wasn’t really that dry and I was freezing cold and thought “right, I’ve had enough of this” – I know I’m not the only one! I thought there are two options, either put on those waterproof top and bottoms which are really uncomfortable, or wear one of those rainproof ponchos which would sit over my whole chair and then you can’t really do anything.
So that’s when I put my mind to it and put together what is now my first item!
It must have felt incredible to watch it come together…
It was crazy! I knew I wanted to make it happen, I approached a few companies with my idea, but ASOS was the company I wanted for a number of reasons. They’re a company who are doing a lot of things that I agree with and when I got the email, saying “hey we’d love to know more and be able to develop this with you” I couldn’t believe it.
The response since has been ridiculous! I can’t even keep up with my social media and some of the articles that have come out, such as Vogue, I thought, this has gone beyond being adaptable and accessible, they were talking genuinely about the fashion behind the item! They weren’t just talking about the fact that it was for somebody in a wheelchair, they were talking about it being damn good festival wear.
I was in the car recently, driving up to traffic lights and the girl in the passenger seat in the car to the right of me was reading the article… I just thought, “It’s not real, this is definitely not real!”
Part two of Chloe’s interview coming soon…
In the mean time… Check out our interview on accessible fashion with Rebekah Taussig.