KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One University of Tennessee graduate wants everyone to feel their best in their clothes, regardless of any disabilities.
Every day, Mary Cayten Brakefield goes to work with her mom.
"We have a great time," said her mom Stephanie.
Mary Cayten and Stephanie Brakefield make up the team behind the company, Brakefields. It's an adaptive and inclusive fashion line designing clothes for people of all abilities.
Mary Cayten started learning about adaptive designs a few years ago.
She won $10,000 in seed funding through the 2020 Boyd Venture Challenge. That's an annual grant competition for UT student-created start-ups, organized by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Haslam College of Business.
She used that money for market research and to fund possible design patents.
"We spent about a year during COVID interviewing people from all over the world trying to find out what their issues were, what kind of things they'd like to see in clothes that were not there already," said Stephanie.
For example, some would like to see tabs and attachments in clothes that people with limited hand mobility can use to get dressed.
"A belt on a pair of pants that you can actually use with your teeth to help pull up or pull down," said Stephanie.
"We have four pieces that we're launching with, and all four of them have a pocket specifically for an insulin pump," said Mary Cayten.
Living with a genetic mutation and having spent time in a wheelchair herself, Mary Cayten knows what a difference adaptive fashion can make.
"There's such an emotional component and a social component to what you wear every day," she said. "And I think a lot of us take for granted that aspect until you aren't able to have that in your clothes."
The Brakefields debuted some of their work in their first ever fashion show in Nashville this fall with models of all abilities wearing clothes that any person could feel comfortable in.
"It was just a lot of fun just seeing our looks go down the runway and thinking, 'wow, this is coming together,'" said Stephanie.
These wide-leg pants were a crowd favorite, complete with stretchy fabric, the ability to pull them up with your mouth and a specialized pocket for an insulin pump.
"So many people were talking about those pants, which was really encouraging because not everything that we were showing is things that will produce," said Mary Cayten. "And so for that many people to be excited about that pair of pants specifically and that's what we're going to be offering soon was really exciting, kind of having that feedback in seeing people excited about them."
She said that she is excited to know that adaptive and inclusive clothing can still be fashionable.
"We really think that there should be clothing options for every possible style out there that is accessible," said Mary Cayten. "I think it's just as important that someone is able to get on their clothes as it is that they love their clothes."
The Brakefields are always looking for feedback on their designs, and what people with different abilities would like to see in their clothing.
You can contact the designers through their website. They'll start taking preorders in December for their collection.