Inside Izzy Camilleri's Functional Fashion Line

Fashion Follows Form: Designs for Sitting is now on display at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum


Since 1984, Izzy Camilleri has been one of Canada’s most technically gifted designers, creating luxe clothing for both retail and film (such as Miranda Priestley’s multi-coloured, belted fur coat in the The Devil Wears Prada). However, her focus changed dramatically after being introduced to a new client: quadriplegic activist and journalist Barbara Turnbull.

“Working with Barb was the first time I’d designed for someone who uses a wheelchair. I didn’t know her clothing needs were any different than mine,” Camilleri says. This realization led her to launch IzAdaptive in June 2009, a clothing line specifically designed for men and women who use wheelchairs.

Fashion Follows Form (until January 25, 2015) displays prize pieces from IzAdapative, alongside historical garments designed for sitting—such as 18th century sidesaddle riding outfits, with pants worn under dresses to allow for mobility while also staying true to the restrictive dress code of the time. Standout pieces from IzAdaptive include a backless biker jacket that unzips into two pieces (see below) and a trench with an asymmetrical hem which eliminates excess fabric that could bunch behind the legs.

“It’s not any designer that could do this,” notes Alexandra Palmer, the Nora E. Vaughan senior curator of textiles and costumes at the ROM. “It’s Izzy’s personality and her way of understanding fashion—coupled with her being a really nice, thoughtful person—that makes this line possible.”

accessible fashion

More on the ROM:

Inside Forbidden ROM Prom