“I believe fashion plays an important role as a communicator of information in social interactions and as an aid in establishing self-identity,” says Angela Wanjiku, the 24-year-old Kenyan designer behind the adaptive fashion label Hisi Studio.
Hisi studio started in 2019 as Wanjikiu’s senior year design project at the University of Nairobi, where she studied textile design. Throughout the project, she cultivated a clothing collection that was both fashion-forward and accessible to individuals with visual impairments. Her first collection included pieces like shirts with braille logos in the middle and easy-to-wear wrap skirts with braille along the sides. From there, she began to feel the great potential to expand into an actual label. And with the guiding hand of her mentors, Ogake Mosomi and Ann McCreath, Hisi Studio was born.
The label’s current collection, 20Thuku, celebrates new beginnings. Wanjikiu describes it “as [taking] a panoramic look at the 1920s, the year 2020, the 20s to come, and the defining role of women across these timelines.” Some pieces from this collection include rust-colored wide-leg pants with braille written along the side, a 3-D printed ear cuff, and a multi-purpose white shirt dress with billowing sleeves and braille printing on the sides.
According to market research reported on by Vogue Business, the global adaptive fashion market is expected to be worth upward of $400 billion by 2026. However, adaptive designs are still not often incorporated into mainstream fashion designs.
Wanjiku urges fashion brands to reconsider their design practices to include more inclusive and accessible pieces. “Fashion designers and clothing manufacturers should choose to be intentional about their consideration for disabled consumers,” she says. However, some mainstream brands consider this long-neglected market like Tommy Hilfiger. The brand launched its first adaptive line of clothing in 2017, titled Tommy Adaptive, which offered a total of 71 pieces aimed at women and men with disabilities.
Hisi Studios utilizes adaptive design methods such as incorporating braille logos that translate into motivational phrases such as “Contend Your Future” and “Wade in The Water,” showcasing how the collection pays homage to the powerful women across Africa and the African Diaspora. The QR codes on each tag in this collection make it possible for the visually impaired to easily comprehend descriptions of the products and their specific care instructions. “This feature is made accessible by the use of an assistive technology feature on android mobile devices called Google Talkback that reads out the information from the scanned QR code,” explains Wanjiku.