The word "adaptive” is a fashion industry buzz word right now, but there are lots of people and businesses that have been pioneering for many years to make adaptive clothing more accessible for people with disabilities and long term illness. Today we speak with the founder and pioneer of stylish adaptive wear in Europe, Sofie Ternest of "SO YES" adaptive clothing.
The Belgian based company is run by Jessie Provoost and Sofie Ternest, both Occupational Therapists. While working together in a rehabilitation centre, they witnessed first-hand the discomfort and limitations that standard clothing caused to people with mobility issues. In the early 2000s, frustrated with the lack of options to suggest to their patients, they took matters into their own hands and began designing adaptive clothing which focused on style as well as functionality. Finally, in 2016 they launched their brand SO YES adaptive clothing.
It is a real joy to have this opportunity to hear your story! To begin, can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I’m Sofie Ternest (35), and co-owner of SO YES adaptive clothing together with my colleague Jessie Provoost (39). Jessie and I worked together as occupational therapists for over 10 years. I still combine my work at SO YES with my job in the rehabilitation centre where I work as a team leader and I am responsible for a large team of 35 occupational therapists and physiotherapists. The team treat people with various ailments such as amputations, spinal cord and brain injuries.
You sound like the dream team! You have such a great working relationship, and you both focus on your strengths. It’s also important that you both also have such a knowledge and understanding of what adaptive consumers need from their clothing. So, tell us more about how you came to creating the SO YES brand.
During the time that Jessie and I worked together as occupational therapists, we noticed that a lot of people with disabilities had problems with their clothing. For example, patients with Hemiplegia, a condition caused by brain damage or a spinal cord injury which leads to paralysis on one side of the body, they cannot put on a jacket by themselves and need help with dressing. We also noticed that wheelchair users often have bare ankles because standard trousers are too short, and paraplegic patients often suffer from bedsores and pressure sores.
One of our tasks as an occupational therapist is to give our patients the best advice. However, there was little or nothing on the market that was sufficiently comfortable and fashionable. It was then that we decided to design our own clothing line. From our experience as occupational therapists and with feedback from our patients, we started our first collection about 5 years ago.
It really seemed like a natural progression for you both to go into the design of adaptive wear, and the clothes you design are clearly well thought out and tested. How would you describe the SO YES brand in three words?
Innovative, fashionable and comfortable.
That is certainly accurate! Can you tell us some more about your collections?
We make innovative products that allow people to be more independent. By adding extra zippers, using magnetic buttons, or designing the perfect seated fit, we can really make a difference for people with a disability. The clothes are both practical and functional but are also fashionable. We always keep up to date on the latest fashion trends of the season to create beautiful collections that give people confidence.
Comfort is the most important thing for us. We work very hard on creating the perfect fit. Sometimes when we create a garment and receive feedback from our testing panel, we can amend the design 7 or 8 times! We want the garment to be perfect and we want our customers to be 100% satisfied. Only when the clothes are comfortable, can people have more confidence and freedom.
What do you love the most about being an adaptive designer?
We love the freedom to create something that gives people independence and comfort. We can make a difference. The feedback that we receive really gives us wings and motivates us to continue in what we are doing.
I love to hear this; you are both so passionate about what you do. It's fantastic! Is there anywhere that you find inspiration when you are designing your clothing? For example, music, art, famous people?
Jessie is a real fashionista, she gets inspired by other clothing brands in the regular fashion industry. She reads a lot of fashion magazines and she always knows exactly how fashion will be in a couple of years. I’m really lucky to be able to work with such an inspiring person.
I am sure she feels the exact same about you! How would you define your own personal style?
My personal style are sustainable, trendy and stylish clothes. I often choose a number of basic pieces that are easy to combine with some statement pieces. I love casual with just that little bit extra. We try to do the same with SO YES: we create a collection of simple and classic pieces that can be mixed and matched with other garments in your wardrobe so that everyone can find their own individual style.
What is the one piece of adaptive fashion that you have created that you both are most proud of?
We are really proud of the ladies skinny jeans with a deep zipper. These trousers designed for people in wheelchairs are casual and stylish, yet feminine at the same time. The deep zip makes it easy for women use a catheter. While treating patients in rehabilitation, we have already experienced how comfortable and accessible they are!
Finally, designers and entrepreneurs are always super busy! On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the messiest) how tidy is your desk at this exact moment? (mine is a solid 9)
3 - I can’t think straight when my office is a mess! 😊
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story and we are very excited to watch the Brand grow from strength to strength!
You can see the SO YES range of clothing on their website HERE
And you can keep up to date with all their news and offers via their social media channels: