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Leon Kaye headshot

IZ Collection Melds Style and Comfort for Wheelchair Users

By Leon Kaye

We've all purchased something off the rack that looked great in the fitting room, but didn't seem to fit quite right once we sat down in the office.

Now imagine what wheelchairs users often endure when they try to wear mainstream clothing.

To that end, Izzy Camilleri, a Toronto-based fashion designer whose threads for men and women have been worn by David Bowie, Samuel L. Jackson, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez, launched IZ Collection specifically for people who use wheelchairs for mobility.

From whimsical shirts to power suits for the office and even biker jackets, Camilleri's new line of apparel is both comfortable and eye-catching. Camilleri considered both fabrics and contours for skin integrity in order to avoid any pressure points that could cause discomfort and even worse, instigate pressure sores.

The clothes are easy to slip into and are cut so that they do not bunch at the waist or ride down in the back.

During her career working with film productions, Camilleri gained experience designing clothes for all body types. But it was a request for a warm winter cape from a Toronto reporter, a wheelchair user since the early 1980s, that inspired Camilleri to start a line for a population that has been largely ignored by the garment industry.

“This goes beyond the clothes,” Camilleri said in a video released in May to coincide with an exhibition of her work at a Toronto museum. “It’s about giving someone their own personality back, giving them a sense of self . . . there just hasn’t been anything like this.”

Camilleri joined a small but vocal and visible group of designers who are making clothes for wheelchair users that are far more enjoyable, fashionable and comfortable to wear than what was previously available. While several companies design and market clothes for wheelchair users, the looks are often pallid while the online shopping experience is generally dull and uninspiring.

IZ Collection is showcased on a platform that engages the online shopper, while using everyday models who look fantastic and certainly appeared to have fun during the photo shoots.

More than 3 million Americans use wheelchairs for independent mobility. As cultural norms over what constitutes “fashion” change and more companies relax their office dress codes or eliminate them altogether, more consumers are demanding clothes and accessories that relate to their beliefs and lifestyle, instead of complying to what fashion brands are often quick to dictate to us. Camilleri’s clothes are not only sharp and eye-catching, but also offer dignity to those who wear them.

The company has a social mission as well: Profits from the sale of IZ Collection's Fashion IZ Freedom tees support accessibility programs in North America. And 10 percent of the brand's sales go toward building more wheelchair ramps in Canada and the U.S., the company said.

Image credits: IZ Collection

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye