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Alexandra Herold and her Adaptive Fashion Marketplace

Anew member of the Santa Fe community, Alexandra Herold, deserves a warm welcome and a round of applause for starting an online clothing company, Patti + Ricky, featuring adaptive fashion. When her mother Patti developed a brain tumor, Herold became her caregiver at 19 years old, and was only able to shop at medical supply stores. Her cousin, Ricky, was born unable to speak or walk and framed how Herold sees her own disabilities—as a human experience. Herold is dyslexic, ADHD and has a physical disability called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). She continues curating a collection that now includes partnerships with Zappos and JC Penney, who features unisex clothing and accessories for kids.

SFR: Let’s start with how you started the company, what was your inspiration?

Alexandra Herold: So, four years ago, I was actually trying to start a nonprofit in Denver, and I came across magnetic shirts on Pinterest. and I thought, ‘Oh my god these are so cool. We all need to be magneting. Why are we buttoning?’ I thought to myself, ‘This is brilliant!’ So, I called the company and they were my first company that I brought on. I started Patti + Ricky with 12 adaptive fashion brands and now four years later I have over 100 brands that we carry.

My mom Patti, was in the New York City fashion industry—a super cool, beautiful, independent, strong woman—was very fashionable, and when she got diagnosed with brain cancer, there was nothing fashionable or functional for her out there. This was 13 years ago. So, I went to a medical supply store. I ended up specially ordering a cane for her, which was pink with roses. Once she had this beautiful cane, people began approaching her. It became this conversation piece and showed me that her cane was not only her vehicle to get where she needed to go, which, number one, was the most important thing, but number two was a fashion accessory and made her feel good. It was really powerful to see the power of fashion.

I think about adaptive fashion similar to how there didn’t used to be plus size clothing and there didn’t used to be maternity clothing and now the plus size, size inclusivity, maternity, clothing and fashion, is a gigantic industry. I believe that the adaptive fashion industry is the next industry.

When you’re not able to use conventional ways of expressing yourself, it’s almost that more important to have that outlet.

Now, I have to be honest with you, the fact that I can talk about fashion today is because of the incredible disability rights activists that have gotten us to this point. Buildings, transportation, employment and school is more accessible. We’ve come really far but we have a lot farther to go. Inaccessible fashion is just another thing that doesn’t allow people to express themselves. It’s so important. These people are consumers. They have credit cards. And they’ve never been talked to, never been listened to. They’ve never been considered in fashion ever, until recently.

Do you need any medical input when you’re sourcing items, does any of the clothing need a doctor’s approval?

Most of our designers have disabilities themselves. They either have a loved one with a disability or they’re a medical professional. We do have some designers that are occupational therapists, physical therapists, oncologists. At Patti + Ricky we believe that the experts are people with disabilities. They are an expert in their own life and that includes their fashion. So, we follow their lead. They need to be involved in the design process or it won’t sell. They know if it’s needed. When I first brought on products, I thought about my mom and Ricky and what products they would want, and I still continue to think of them as we add new products. We have a suggestion section at the bottom of our website and I have our customers telling us what they’re looking for and we’re following their lead. If it exists, I’ll find it.

I don’t have a physical disability, I have anxiety as well, but is it OK for someone like me to buy them?

We have products that are universally designed, which are the magnetic and velcro clothing, or zippered shoes. All of our jewelry is universally designed. A lot of our accessories work on wheelchairs, but also bicycles, scooters. I really wanted to bring disability together as a whole. So, if you have a physical disability, an invisible disability, something like anxiety, which I have, or learning disability to bring disability together as a whole, so we can come together. But then also for this to be a store for everyone to one day see that it’s just better designed.

Each year you donate 10% of your profits to other nonprofit organizations. Can you tell me a little about that?

I want to give back to the community that we’re in. We do a tremendous amount of research on nonprofits that we give to, to know that they are truly inclusive and empowering people on this planet. Giving back is really important. A lot of our individual designers have a give-back system, so even if you buy something on our site they’re also giving back.

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