In 2007, Heidi McKenzie was paralyzed in a car accident at the age of 21, but she hasn’t let that stop her from making her mark on the world. In 2012, she participated in Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky and started her own fashion business catered toward disabled women. Her brand, “Alter Ur Ego,” creates designer jeans for women (and men) in wheelchairs that are practical as well as fashionable.
On her website, McKenzie describes her clothes like this: “I’m designing jeans for other people in wheelchairs that are both functional, and fashionable. I want to make it possible for those with disabilities to be able to express their “alter-ego” through fashion while breaking down social barriers.”
She added, “Adaptable clothing is hard to find, especially if you want to look fashionable. The adaptable jeans are just the beginning of clothing that has all the fashion and all the function for someone in a wheelchair. People with disabilities should have just as many clothing options. Most pieces of clothing are not designed for people with disabilities. Alter Ur Ego is not one of them.”
McKenzie partnered with designer Kristin Alexandra Tidwell to create the jeans and currently they go for $80 a pair. She told Mashable more about her fashion line. She said, “I originally wanted to have a retail store, but once I figured I could make a difference firsthand with being in a wheelchair and design adaptable clothing, I was determined to do it. Most adaptable clothing is targeted towards the elderly, and I wanted something fashionable that everyone would be able to express their alter ego through their fashion.”
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She also said she hopes her clothes give people in the disabled community more confidence. She explained, “It’s mainly a feeling of confidence in knowing that these jeans were made for someone in a wheelchair and they’re fashionable, so a lot of people will notice the pockets right on the side. I’ve had some people [who aren’t in a wheelchair] comment, ‘I want some of those’ or those that are say, ‘I haven’t worn jeans in X amount of years because I can’t find one that will work for me.”
The jeans are made of Spandex, have large side pockets, a catheter opening and a high-waisted back, as well as a tummy control panel. McKenzie hopes to go on to create dresses, jackets and blouses for disabled people that would give them more independence. She concluded, “I hope that it gives them confidence and breaks down social barriers.”