Launched in 2016, Izzy Wheels sells stylish, playful wheel covers for wheelchair users. The Dublin-based startup was founded by the 2 sisters, Ailbhe and Izzy. Ailbhe the creative director of Izzy wheels had one goal in mind when she started this, which is to make wheelchairs look nicer for their users.
The idea was inspired by her younger sister Izzy who was born with Spina Bifida and is paralyzed from her waist down. Izzy has always seen her wheelchair in a positive light but felt that it never reflects her bright and bubbly personality. Hence Ailbhe decided to create a range of interchangeable colourful wheel cover designs for her sister’s chair as her final year college project in The National College of Art and Design in 2016. She worked closely with her sister to get the right material and durability of the wheel covers to achieve lightweight, waterproof and scratch-proof design. Together they tested out various ways to fasten the wheel covers. And that’s how Izzy Wheels successfully takes off.
Izzy Wheels aims to bridge the gap between fashion and disability, all while armed with creativity. The wheel covers are an excellent conversation starter and it may break down stigmas. It transforms a medical device as a piece of fashion statement and self-expression that speaks the individuality of its users. They use their own platform to smash stigmas and empower people with disabilities with this tagline.: ‘If you can’t stand up, stand out.’
They had made a collaboration with Barbie back in 2019, for their 60th anniversary. For the collaboration, Barbie had expanded the “Fashionistas” line to include dolls with physical disabilities, including a doll with a wheelchair and a doll with a prosthetic limb. The collection has four limited edition wheelchair covers, designed by various artists. This collection is made especially for children with such condition and to explore dolls with more diversity.
What I really admire of Izzy Wheels is their ethos which speaks about Empowerment, self-expression, freedom, collaboration and confidence. And their whole brand built around the concept of bridging fashion and disability closer together. Their definition of success is not about money or being famous but it’s about setting a new industry standard for future generations of designers, ones who can infuse their lived experiences into their work and that’s something I hope to strive for in the future.
Izzy Wheels: Bringing Beautiful Design To Wheelchairs Around The World. (2020). [fig 1]. Retrieved from http://natashalipman.com/izzy-wheels-wheelchair-design-disability/
Fletcher, H. (2020). Retrieved 5 October 2020, from https://www.10magazine.com/news/barbie-mattel-anniversary-izzy-wheels-art-school-malika-favre/
How Two Sisters Reinvented the Wheelchair. (2020). Retrieved 5 October 2020, from https://www.papermag.com/izzy-wheels-wheelchair-covers-wear-me-out-2646440220.html?rebelltitem=18#rebelltitem18
IZZY WHEELS. (2020). Retrieved 5 October 2020, from https://www.thinkhousehq.com/features/izzy-wheels
Munroe, N. (2020). The Most Diverse Doll In The World Just Took Another Leap Forward In Its Quest For True Inclusivity. Retrieved 5 October 2020, from https://www.vogue.co.uk/miss-vogue/article/barbie-and-izzy-wheels-collaboration
O’hear, S. (2020). TechCrunch is now a part of Verizon Media. Retrieved 5 October 2020, from https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/04/pimp-my-ride/
Pike, N. (2020). Girl On A Mission: Izzy Wheels Founder Ailbhe Keane. Retrieved 5 October 2020, from https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/izzy-wheels-founder-interview