Melbourne-based adaptive clothing company Caring Clothing is turning heads, not just for its fashionable and comfortable attire, but also for its dedication and business practices. Launched under the Caring Clothing brand two years ago, the concept of well-wearing adaptive clothing for people with restrictive mobility – due to disability, illness or injury – evolved from company director Serena Gove’s years of experience in the health and aged care industries. That wealth of knowledge, and passion for providing a quality of life for all has driven this hard-working mother to implement a fashionable range that is available around Australia.
Being announced as a finalist in the coveted AusMumpreneur Awards, presented by The AusMumPreneur Network, goes further to cement the hard-work Serena has put into the business. The Awards recognise Australian mums in business outstanding success, and balancing motherhood and business. Caring Clothing is one of the 11 Emerging finalists. The winners will be announced on August 25.
After working as a live-in carer, Serena saw first-hand the impact helping dress those in her care in normal clothing had. Not only were some items of clothing too restrictive for people who suffered from loss of mobility, but it was also a physical strain on their carers to assist in dressing in clothing. She watched those in her care struggle with dressing and clothing selection, and in turn, often lose some sense of their own self-identity.
The seed of inspiration grew when Serena’s family was affected, even though it was only in the short-term. “When my father had an accident and injured his leg, all he was able to wear was tracksuit pants,” she says. “He had never worn tracksuit pants in his life, but there was nothing available that was easy enough for him to wear. I thought there had to be some alternative.”
The concept for her business was further hammered home when a long-term friend was diagnosed with MS and became wheelchair bound. Serena says one of her frustrations was there was nothing fashionable to wear, she couldn’t find clothes that were accommodating and suited her special needs, while also making her still feel good about the way she looked. “She just wanted to look groovy and funky,” she says. “But there was nothing in the market place. I wanted to create somewhere people could come to find clothing to suit them – regardless of age and regardless of ailment.”
Serena started designing a range that would not only be easy for people with limited mobility to dress themselves, but also a range to enable carers to assist those who have extreme limited range of movement. The result is a range that is fashionable – for men and women – made from high quality fabrics, with solutions such as back and side openings and cleverly designed clasps. The process of designing has been a long one, Serena wanted to ensure that it would be impossible to tell the clothing was adaptive from looks alone, something she has achieved. Her range would easily be at home in a fashion boutique on the high street.
While Caring Clothing started in 2015, with its official launch to market this year, the design process actually began back in 2012 under Serena’s original brand Hemmingway. The work behind-the-scenes on the designs, checking sizes, quality control and manufacturing has been a full-time role, something which this entrepreneurial mum juggled, and self-funded with a young baby on board. Checking in with target groups to ascertain if the designs were practical and functional, as well as good looking, was an arduous process, but an extremely important one. It was all worth it though as the first shipment arrived for sale at the start of the year.
“We wanted to make sure the products were right,” says Serena. “It was important to ensure they fitted correctly, the designs were right, that the fabrics were suitable and were going to wear right. We wanted to ensure that the clothing did help reduce pain by ensuring people didn’t need to manipulate body parts like shoulders as much. The aim was to make dressing safer for them, whether they are being assisted to dress, or dressing themselves.”
With two decades of experience working in the aged and disability industry and as a nurse in nursing homes and community care, Serena has initially expanded the business into the aged care sector – with the first range of adaptive clothing predominantly aimed to suit those in aged care facilities. Caring Clothing is currently working on a wider adult range, as well as a collection for adolescents and children. All the collections have the same focus of promoting independence, dignity, self-worth and self-identity.
For Serena, it isn’t about the age – it is about being made to feel good within yourself, no matter what you’re wearing. “People’s style is their self-identity,” she says. “They still want to feel youthful and express who they are, rather than just dressing for ease. Often the ease takes out the fashion and the fun. That is what we are trying to bring back.”
Caring Clothing’s new collections are available now. The full range of adaptive clothing and specialised footwear are able to be sent Australia-wide. For more information and stockists, please visit www.caringclothing.com.au