This Former Medical Student Transformed Her Love For Fashion Into A Brand Of Adaptive Clothing

The sounds of Texas.

By Joy DíazAugust 27, 2021 3:32 pm,

Elena Cortez-Neavel is a Texan, and founder and CEO of Abilitee Adaptive Wear. It’s a clothing brand that researches, designs and develops adaptive clothing and accessories.

Abilitee founder Elena Cortez-Neavel. Courtesy photo

“I always like making things that didn’t exist. I sewed my own clothes in middle school and high school, … I had a wonderful time just with a sewing machine, sometimes hand-sewing, ruining my mom’s pillowcases and making them into dresses.”

“Fashion isn’t vain; it’s a very important functional thing … and it’s also a reflection of our culture, and sometimes, precedes changes in culture. … Fashion can be a starting point for conversations.”

“One-fifth to one-fourth of the global population is disabled. And that’s something that I didn’t know before starting this work. A big part of that is the fact that we’ve kind of just left behind and forgotten about disabled people in terms of their lived experience at home. How do they manage their insulin pump? How do they manage their colostomy bag or their chemo port that just remains in their chest?”

“That’s something that … really surprised me. I couldn’t believe that no one was making clothing for such a large population. And I just decided that if it’s not that hard, if it’s just a matter of figuring out where to put different openings [and] what materials to use, it can’t be that hard. And there’s no new technology or new manufacturing technique that needs to be developed in order to make adaptive clothing. It’s just that designers … haven’t put together the components of clothing in such a way that it is adaptive.”

“We currently have an insulin pump belt, which is probably our most popular item. That was debuted on American Eagle’s sub-brand. … And that actually went viral. That was viewed like 4 million times in a couple of days. And since then, that’s just been one of our No. 1 products. So that how simple something can be.“

“One of the barriers … for small adaptive brands right now is that if you’re ordering up small volumes from your manufacturers, it’s often very, very marked up. So, you can’t make money unless you charge a lot to your customers, which we refuse to do.”

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