Disabled people are familiar with the reality of media leaving disability out of the conversation, and fashion is no exception. One up-and-coming fashion lifestyle brand, FFORA, is working to set a new standard in the fashion industry.
Founder and CEO, Lucy Jones, first noticed that disabled people were being excluded from fashion when attending Parsons School of Design in 2011. “I felt like we were constantly designing for one body, always,” she says. This revelation led to conversations with disabled friends and family members who challenged her to question the accessibility of design. Jones recalls, “I wondered how many products we put out into the world that are inaccessible or create barriers without even knowing we’re doing it.” It was from this moment that Jones vowed to bring disability into her work– and the idea of FFORA was born.
“Disability needs to be included in everything. I want to get to a point where I’m not even talking about this.”
Jones started working with a wheelchair user named Ronnie on custom designs while in school. “She wanted the wow factor,” she recalls, “big sleeves and “out there” designs.” When working with Ronnie, Jones noticed that she always had a bag on her chair, and began to ask her about accessories.
It wasn’t until Jones left Parsons that she was able to collaborate with an industrial designer, Joonas Kyöstilä, so she could begin designing accessories for wheelchair users. Along with other collaborators, Jones created an attachment clip that has become the building block for FFORA’s entire product line. The attachment consists of a dock and a magnet that looks like a pebble. While the magnet guides the clip, gravity holds it into place, making it versatile for many different wheelchairs. Not only that, but it comes in three different colors (champagne, nickel, and midnight) to suit your particular taste.
While the attachment system is just the beginning of FFORA’s accessory line, the products that attach to it are far from the typical medical accessories you might be used to seeing. Every FFORA product is sleek and sophisticated and sold in a variety of colors to match your style. Their bestselling cup holder is a slick, minimalistic ring that attaches to the metal bars of most manual wheelchairs, but doesn’t draw attention if you aren’t currently holding a drink and don’t want to remove it. To pair with their enticing cup holder FFORA offers an equally appealing stainless steel tumbler that will make any 16 ounce iced coffee or hot tea all the tastier.
Besides quenching your thirst in style, FFORA’s bags and purses add flair to any outfit. Their Essentials Bags are a unisex option that are extremely functional without sacrificing aesthetics. This versatile handle bag with a removable crossbody strap is made with genuine leather and is spacious enough to hold all of your daily essentials. It comes in seven colors ranging from a sexy black with gold trim to vibrant colors such as electric blue or hot pink. This product has their magnetic pebble embedded into it for easy application to the attachment system.
“We are the smallest brand in the space, but perhaps with the loudest voice.”
You can select your brand and model of manual wheelchair to get a preview of how their products will look, but their products will fit any type of chair—including power wheelchairs. Since wheelchairs are highly customized and individual, FFORA has been unable to research every wheelchair manufacturer but knows that their product can work on almost anything. Customers are encouraged to reach out if they’re unsure if a product will fit their mobility device and cannot find it on their website. Jones says, “We’ll have customers send in pictures and we’ll circle suggested areas from the manufacturer's website and send a kit. We love doing that as it builds a relationship with our customers, too. If it doesn’t work, they can send it back.”
Launching as a luxe brand, FFORA is one of a kind in the market. While accessibility has been at the forefront of Jones’ mind, her mission as a fashion designer is to design gorgeous, standout products that draw attention, which is uncommon in adaptive fashion. Many disabled people rely on accessible cup holders and bags for independence, but they also crave style. “It doesn’t mean the products have to look medicinal,” Jones expresses. She continues, “I don’t know who makes those products, but a disabled person often isn’t behind those decisions.”
FFORA has always been about collaboration. The name “FFORA” comes from the Latin word fora, which translated to “forum”. When beginning a project, Jones and her team consult with a variety of disabled voices within the larger disability community, so that their vision can remain unbiased. “Take out any assumptions you have about someone’s life and listen. This is a very diverse, nuanced audience, just like society is,” she says of disability culture.
Ultimately, FFORA hopes to lead as an example for other brands. “The reason FFORA started, beyond the fact that I felt there needed to be a specific product line, is because I felt other brands were getting it wrong,” Jones says woefully. “When entering the space, they’re very inspirational and I realized how harmful those messages are.” FFORA acts as a pushback to show people what vibrancy, attitude, sexiness, fun, and playfulness in disability culture can look like.
“Disability needs to be included in everything. I want to get to a point where I’m not even talking about this,” Jones says of FFORA’s dreams. She hopes that disability is so prevalent across the board that bigger brands take this mentality on, beyond products and fun inventions. “We are the smallest brand in the space, but perhaps with the loudest voice,” Jones claims, and it’s easy to see that at least for now, disabled people are listening, and looking fabulous while doing so.