Fashion designer launches brand after life-threatening illness

 Victoria Jenkins standing next to her clothes range
Victoria Jenkins standing next to her clothes range Image credit:

A near-fatal diagnosis encouraged a young woman to pursue her career path to branch out in the fashion industry.

Victoria Jenkins, 36, had always set her sights working in the clothing business, but it wasn’t until a life-threating illness gave her the boost to chase her dream and launch her own clothing line.

In 2012 she was rushed to hospital where surgeons found an undiagnosed ulcer had burst in her stomach which could had led to fatal consequences.

Jenkins, from Islington, told MyLondon: "I had been back and forth with the doctors for three years, telling them something wasn't right.

"Every time I ate it hurt, I was constantly uncomfortable and losing weight at a scary rate.

"The undiagnosed ulcer in my stomach burst two days before I went to A&E, but I eventually went.

"They took me down for surgery and as that happened it was fifty fifty whether I was going to come back up."

After the operation she was told she had multiple gastro-intestinal problems and needed a number of surgeries in the hope they would save her life.

The condition meant Victoria had to wear pyjamas during the daytime, not ideal for someone who liked to keep up with the latest fashion trends.

Realising how many other patients felt when told they had to wear nightwear in order to be comfortable Victoria saw a gap in the market for specially designed clothes for people recovering from surgery.

She recalled: "I was in hospital in 2016 when I was talking to a fellow patient who turned my head on to doing adaptive fashion.

"She'd had ovarian cancer which she was in remission from but treatment had left her with quite a lot of other conditions, and had two stomas, a line in her arm and was being fitted with a port in her chest.

"This meant the clothing was either restrictive and painful, or she had to strip off the clothing to allow doctors to access.

"I started researching from my hospital bed and we had a laugh at what was available at the time, which wasn't very much. Nothing I saw was sustainable or aimed at young people."

So in 2017 Victoria packed in her day job working for Victoria Beckham and launched her own brand, Unhidden after doing her homework and finding out the fashion industry is ignoring the 14 million disabled people living in the UK apart from a select few brands.

"Once I started researching it I realised the scope of the need for it, it just felt really difficult to continue working in an industry that doesn't care about disabled people," Victoria said.

Unhidden manufactures adapted clothing such as trousers designed for wheelchair users that don’t rise when you sit down as well as shirts and dresses which make it easier for wearers to receive their medication.

The shirts can be customised at the checkout with magnetic fastenings for customers with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy.

In the summer Victoria opened a temporary store at The Grafton Centre in Cambridge for local people with disabilities to purchase clothing to fit their needs.

"After years of trying to survive in the fashion industry this company has given me both purpose and an even more fulfilling career alongside a confidence I had never had before," Victoria said.

For more information visit the Unhidden website.