IZ’s plan for freedom

The fashion brand for wheelchair users has a new initiative that aims to empower customers with more than their style choices.

IZ, a fashion brand and online retailer that aims to bring better style choices to people in wheelchairs, has worked with The Garden on a new program that will hopefully find ways to make the world a more accessible place in general.

The new Access10 initiative will direct 10% of all IZ sales to projects and organizations like Stop Gap that increase accessibility across North America.

“They actually came to us and said they needed a print campaign, because they have a very niche audience, and the challenge with reaching wheelchair users is there isn’t any demographic commonality between them,” says Shari Walczak, co-founder of The Garden. “But it felt like their business was at a place where it needed to go to the next level, which meant more than a print campaign. One of their employees told us about how it’s not the chair that’s limiting, but all the two-inch curbs and broken elevators in the world. It’s ridiculous there’s so many people that are being limited by such a small thing, but it’s one that IZ can bring a solution to.”

The launch of the initiative includes the “#FashionIZFreedom” social media campaign. IZ has released t-shirts bearing the slogan, with 100% of those proceeds going to accessibility initiatives. The social-led campaign, which is encouraging customers to photograph themselves wearing the t-shirt, and is leveraging posts across channels and influencers, looks to get the word out about IZ and the Access10 program by engaging a wider audience that might still care about accessibility issues.

“There are a lot of people who would care about this issue, and it doesn’t mean they have to be using a wheelchair,” Walczak says. “Even if it’s not personally affecting them, it might for someone close to them or they might realize how easily it could. It brings the issue to the forefront to the world as whole while also showing IZ is a company trying to help create a solution.”

Founded in 2004, IZ (formerly IZ Adaptive) was formed when Canadian fashion designer Izzy Camilleri, who has designed for the likes of Angelina Jolie, David Bowie, Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep, was approached by the late Barbara Turnbull, a reporter for the Toronto Star, looking for fashion that would suit her while in her wheelchair. That was when Camilleri realized typical fashion, from the way it was cut to the way it looked when sitting down, wasn’t designed with wheelchairs users in mind and began making clothes that didn’t have to sacrifice fashion for function.

“She runs a fashion brand for people in wheelchairs, but what if she reframes that and becomes an accessibility company, where fashion is the vehicle that makes the world a more accessible place?” Walczak says. “This is an opportunity to give wheelchair users another way to empower themselves, on top of access to great fashion.”

Ahead of the campaign launch, The Garden brought in people like trend forecasters and outside stylists to give Camilleri different perspectives as she developed her Fall/Winter 2015 collection. The agency has also worked with Camilleri to revamp IZ’s visual identity and website, as well as its social and creative strategies.

“It’s about creating a full brand experience, so we had to make sure the site lived up to it,” Walczak says. “They already had a strong social footprint, but it was more instinctive. We’ve help put in a bit of a framework and structure around how they communicate on social and the kinds of posts they’re doing to give them the ability to open up and create conversations that aren’t just about the fashion itself.”