Meet the Woman Making Functional Fashion for People in Wheelchairs

“I want to give people in wheelchairs options, so we can look good and feel good too.”

Models wear Alter UR Ego jeans

As she recovered from the traumatic car accident that left her, at 21, without use of her legs, Heidi McKenzie realized she had a bit of a fashion nightmare on her hands. It seemed like a minor annoyance, but it bothered McKenzie to no end: She found that there were very few functional and fashionable clothes for people who used wheelchairs.

McKenzie just wanted a pair of nice jeans.

“There are inconveniences, health issues and discomforts that come with sitting all day, but I wasn’t ready to buy pants for grannies!” McKenzie, now 29, writes in a just launched Kickstarter campaign. “I wanted to be able to wear the type of fashion I did when I could walk. I didn’t want to give up on feeling and looking good.”

So after graduating from college with a degree in small business management, the Kentucky native teamed up with designer Kristin Alexandra Tidwell. Their company: Alter UR Ego, an adaptable jeans line.

McKenzie and Tidwell’s pants feature all the elements you’d expect from a nice pair of jeans: the perfectly stretchy material, the flattering dark blue color. But these jeans have a few extras. First, there are accessible pockets, which sit further down the thigh. There’s a catheter opening between the pants legs. There’s a higher waistline in the back, to prevent what McKenzie delicately terms “plumber’s crack.” There are straps on the inside of the pants, which help seated wearers pull them up. And the pants are longer in length, so that they still fit perfectly while their owner sits in a wheelchair.

Heidi McKenzie, wearing Alter UR Ego jeans

The Kickstarter project, which McKenzie hopes will raise $20,000 by August 29, would allow Alter UR Ego to produce their jeans on a wider scale, at textile factorites in North Carolina.

“I don’t dwell on the past nor would I want to change it,” writes McKenzie in a recent blog post marking the eight year anniversary of her accident. “I wholeheartedly believe I am exactly where I need to be, designing clothing for people like me in wheelchairs.”

Via Huffington Post

Julian Meehan

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