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.
All images courtesy Alex Jovanovic, unless otherwise noted.