Patchworker Spotlight: Victoria’s story

Patchworker Spotlight: Victoria’s story

Victoria Jenkins is a multi-award-winning Adaptive Designer and Founder /CEO of Unhidden. We recently spoke with Victoria to find out more about her story, the growth of Unhidden, and her vision for the future of adaptive fashion and workplace accessibility.


To start, could you please tell us about yourself?

I'm Victoria. I’ve worked in the fashion industry for 14 years as a garment technologist (sort of like a clothes engineer). Ten years ago, I also became disabled. I live with a number of gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal conditions as well as chronic pain. It was this that has led to me founding my company, Unhidden, and my advocacy work.

Can you tell us a bit more about your story?

I studied fashion design at Istituto Marangoni, graduating in 2008 with First Class Honours, which truly feels like a lifetime ago! I then spent 14 years working as a garment tech for suppliers to Tesco, Primark and Phase Eight etc. I’ve also worked directly with brands like Sweaty Betty, Jack Wills, All Saints and Victoria Beckham.

As part of awareness building for Unhidden, I’ve become something of a public speaker! It was not part of my plan but it has been the only income I have had over the last 2 years. It’s been so amazing to combine what I care about with what helps me get back to financial security. I even did a TEDx talk in April this year, which was an amazing experience! Additionally, I can draw both by hand and digitally, and I love to sew but I am somewhat rusty at it (I used to make wedding dresses). All of this has been helpful as content creation is a huge part of what I do now. I’ve also been very privileged to take part in a number of courses to learn about business, start-up reality and PR.

Have you faced any workplace barriers due to your situation? Do you think the ‘conventional’ world of work most employers use needs to change?

Every year since my life-saving surgery in 2012, I would medically burn out while working a conventional job. This usually meant spending 10 days in the hospital. It was only after going freelance that this cycle ended - now it's just me pressurising myself to be productive, not an entire company, boss or team. The sense of freedom and relief was incredible when I decided not to work full time for other people on a permanent contract. I was consistently denied remote working and almost all the buildings I worked in weren’t great either. This involved long walks to the bathroom, heavy doors, lifts out of order or non-existent.

From my experience, I think employers need to cotton on to the hybrid working method. I love interacting with people in real life, but the days I have to travel are the days I can't work as many hours, it’s that simple. There’s a whole world of people who are fantastic, talented and truly passionate about what they do. However, for some, it’s better if they can work from home some or all of the time!

If you could change one thing about the world of work or the way employers saw accessibility, what would it be and why?

That the benefits outweigh any initial 'cost' and often the perceived cost is nothing compared to employee turnover - the return on better accessibility is massive.

What inspired you to start doing the work you currently do?

During another spell in hospital, I met a woman on my ward who had a lot going on medically after surviving cancer. She told me that she couldn't get dressed how she wanted, for work, at home, or for social occasions. She told me how hard she looked and I was so convinced I would find the right styles for her that I started researching from my own bed!

What I saw in 2016 was not enough. Not sustainable, not aimed really at the consumer but at carers of disabled and elderly people. It wasn't sustainable and there simply wasn't enough on offer - still the case now but it’s changing slowly. The UK is very far behind compared to other countries. So I’ve spent years researching and developing my designs and ideas. Funding has determined the 10 items for the first collection, but so much more is coming - once I have more investors!

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from your career to date?

That I can ask for help, from peers, friends, and family! I don't have to do it all on my own (I usually do things solo, so this is a relatively new lesson to learn) and people are happy to help. I’ve learnt that I'm not an inconvenience and it usually leads to a better outcome (more content, better copy, exciting new ideas and solutions to problems). I’ve also found that networking is the backbone of small business life, and meeting with other small businesses will only help you grow. These businesses can offer so much amazing advice and there is much to learn from them when tackling different issues. It's been a pleasure meeting and getting to know people in this space!

Do you have a favourite quote or personal mantra?

I want to be in the room where it happens. Except the 'I' is the disabled community.

If you could change one thing about people's perception of disability, what would it be?

I want people to know it isn't all doom and gloom - it has been a gift for me and taught me so much. This community is creative, amazing, smart and a seriously untapped resource!

Find out more about Victoria’s story and work:

Visit Unhidden Clothing’s website

Follow Victoria on Instagram

Follow Unhidden Clothing on Instagram

Follow Unhidden Clothing on Twitter

Like Unhidden Clothing’s Facebook

Contact Victoria on LinkedIn

Follow Unhidden Clothing on LinkedIn

 

Published: 24th May 2022

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