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Alexandria Milburn

15th May 2021

Inspired by young individuals on the Autism Disorder Spectrum, Fashion Design BA student Alexandria Milburn is on a personal mission to create fashionable clothing to enrich the lives of those in minority groups whilst maintaining accessibility for all. By considering their special requirements, Alex is turning clothing choices into a positive rather than a negative – something many of us take for granted. There is a broad spectrum of adaptations needed in terms of garment construction, fabrication, trims and details, but Alex is determined to provide inclusivity for those often limited by mainstream fashion. 

Alex said: “I became inspired to design this collection after seeing the struggle first hand that my brother experiences on a daily basis, and his sensory reaction to clothing.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted Alex’s brother’s life in terms of isolation and change in routine, which has had a profound effect on him. With this experience in mind, Alex was inspired to focus on creating tangible, fashionable clothing paying attention to the sensory needs of those with autism. Breaking through the confines of fashion through in-depth research including primary imagery, Alex has developed her personal style as a designer and pushed this concept to create a strong fashionable collection. 

As a pattern cutting specialist, Alex approaches research through forensic drawing of archive garments to understand construction and silhouette, using this as a base for bold new silhouettes and cutting-edge design development. Alongside the primary photography and film-making throughout her work, this considered approach to the desires and needs of a group of individuals with special needs sets this collection apart in a fashion industry with a lack of adaptable clothing. Small changes in the design process can make such a difference to an autistic person, making their life easier to cope with due to simple adaptations. 

Every part of the collection has been considered in terms of sensory reaction; such as the position of seams, fabrics and trims, silhouette, hidden details, and accessories. The choice of fabrics throughout the collection ensures the wearer feels safe and secure: heavy weighted cloth can have an emotion supressing response, and smooth and soft fabrics encourage a calming environment without being obvious to others that an adaptation is present. Accessories such as fidget scarves with concealed details and differing textures can lower stress levels and improve confidence in social situations. 

She added: “My aim is to drive inclusivity and for there to be fashion for all. There is a huge demand for adaptable clothing, leaving a gap in the market that needs to be filled.” She is certainly the designer to push forward this innovation in diversity. The work Alex is doing in this field shows a pioneering spirit for change, and will hopefully encourage the fashion industry to approach inclusive design in a new way. 

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