Aille Design Integrates Braille into Fashion for the Visually Impaired

15 June 2022
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By Marichka Melnyk
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Canadian fashion designer Alexa Jovanovic doesn’t just care about how her clients look in her outfits; she’s intent on how the clothes feel under their fingertips. The founder of Aille Design (pronounced “eye”) makes high-quality garments for people who cannot see them and defines a space for the visually impaired in the highly visual world of fashion—one painstakingly hand-sewn a bead at a time.

While still a student in Toronto’s Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University) Fashion Communication program, a shopping trip inspired Jovanovic’s capstone research project. “I had been thinking about innovation and ideas that weren’t well represented, and I happened to come across this beaded jacket. Running my hands along it made me think of braille, and this idea evolved that these beads could have a message, to be functional and not just pretty.”

Jovanovic collaborated with the (national) blind foundation CNIB, Braille Literacy Canada, and other volunteers who told her about how people who cannot see fashion experience it. “It was really interesting, the conversation that we had,” Jovanovic recalls. “We talked about social misconceptions of blindness, the process of getting dressed—are trends important?—how they organize their closet in certain ways, what people think blindness “looks” like, the negative stigmas associated with disability that can be more disabling than loss of vision itself …, and how to address all that with a tangible, stylish piece that works for people both with and without sight.” Her objective was to create a wearable that was not segregated or limited to the visually impaired community but could be part of conventional clothing lines.

image description: five items of clothing, on coathangers, hanging in front of a window; from left to right, a denim jacket, a leather jacket, a white skirt, an offwhite skirt and a blue dress; each of the items has beads sewn on

Some of Jovanovic’s design prototypes. (Click to enlarge.)

All images courtesy Alex Jovanovic, unless otherwise noted.

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About Marichka Melnyk

Marichka Melnyk is a Toronto-based radio producer and broadcaster, photographer and compulsive traveller, who became an avid distance walker after completing the Camino de Santiago de Compostela across Spain in 2013. She hikes nature trails both inside and outside the Toronto city limits, including the entire Pan Am Path, and regularly writes and presents publicly about her travels. Follow on Facebook or Instagram @Marichpix and @seventy7sunsets, or to get in touch writemarichka@gmail.com.

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