Aille Designs aims to destigmatize disability by creating designs that are fully legible for braille readers
At the intersection of inclusivity and fashion, Alexa Jovanovic created Aille Design with the aim of educating people about disabilities and creating products that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Jovanovic, an alumna of the fashion communication program at Ryerson, studied braille and inclusive fashion while she was a student working towards her degree. She says her fashion background taught her to be more innovative in the way she now creates designs.
“I started pivoting all my research and all my general interests towards making fashion more inclusive. We’re now in 2021 and fashion has increased in its inclusivity and its diverse representation, but we’re still nowhere where we need to be,” said Jovanovic.
“One of the biggest things when it comes to fashion is even when the conversations are centred right around inclusivity, disability still happens to be that one area that gets excluded.”
What started as a fourth-year capstone project for Jovanovic, Aille Design is now a company that exists as a means to lead the change of inclusive fashion and destigmatize disability.
After she graduated, Jovanovic joined the Fashion Zone at Ryerson to gain mentorship and resources to better understand the operations behind running a business. She says that over the years, Aille Design has gained recognition as being an advocate for the disabled community.
“Finally, we’re in a place where the community as a whole and the industry is starting to recognize the importance of inclusivity,” she said. “Because the disability community has always been overlooked, this is one of those first brands that’s entering the marketplace and trying to make a difference when it comes to including truly everyone.”
Now, Jovanovic and her team create clothing, masks and scarves with bead designs that are sewn in to resemble Braille writing. The intricate bead placement — all applied by hand — makes the writing fully functional and legible for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
For example, one of her most recent designs is a white T-shirt with beads spelling out the phrase “My Plain White T.” She also created a couple of mask designs when the pandemic hit, with one of them spelling “I Love your Mask.” Through touch, Braille readers are able to enjoy these products without requiring someone who is sighted to help them.
Although Jovanovic herself is someone who is sighted, she works with people who are part of blind, visually impaired and sighted communities. On her website, it says her goal is to be as inclusive as possible and that good designs shouldn’t exclude anyone.
She also wants to encourage Braille to be used more in mainstream spaces, with non-Braille readers as well. She says that consumers can be an advocate for inclusive fashion representation by wearing a product by Aille Design.
For people who aren’t familiar with Braille, wearing an Aille Design piece can be a conversation starter and an opportunity for someone to learn more about disability and the Braille reading community.
“What you wear says so much about who you are and what your values are. So by wearing a piece that has Braille on it, even though you yourself may not be a Braille reader, it’s starting to increase that exposure to accessibility and disability related devices,” Jovanovic said.
“It really shows that if we normalize the appearance of these items in everyday society, there isn’t going to be so much stigma surrounding them.”