Alexa Jovanovic knew at age 10 that she wanted to work in fashion. Several years later, when she launched her own fashion business, she also adopted a personal business philosophy: That good design shouldn’t exclude anyone.
It was the marriage of these two elements that led to Aille Design, an emerging Canadian brand that makes braille-beaded clothing with a social purpose. The brand incorporates detailed beading to form phrases in braille. The intricate beading describes clothing characteristics, such as color, textiles, wash instructions, and fit. Aille Design products are inclusive, fully legible for braille readers, destigmatize disability, and educate about the importance of inclusive representation in the fashion industry.
The company works alongside a diverse team of fashion lovers from blind, visually impaired, and sighted communities, creating fashion-forward products that empower and celebrate inclusivity. The intricate beading describes clothing characteristics, such as color, textiles, wash instructions, and fit.
“Since the beginning we've been working really closely with different individuals from the [blind] community to ensure that all of the braille is legible, to ensure that the braille that does go onto the garments are different phrases or information that is actually useful, or that are wanted,” Alexa says, “and that they're placed in areas of the clothing that are comfortable, that look good. It's really designed start-to-finish with the blind and visually impaired community.”
Taking the theme of inclusion seriously, Alexa also worked to ensure that her website was fully accessible to blind or low vision visitors.
“With launching our website, we worked with two blind women from Toronto,” Alexa says. “They have an accessibility consulting company called Two Canes Consult. And they went through the entire website to make sure it was accessible and that the functionality was there, and the user experience was there. So really as much as possible, we want to make sure that this is a company that is for the visually impaired community and created by the visually impaired community.”
As to the company name: Aille is pronounced “eye,” which is fitting given the theme of braille and blindness. The word itself is French, meaning “to go forward.” Essentially, Aille Design is "Where fashion needs to move forward into." The use of a French word is also a nod to the inventor of braille, Louis Braille, who was from France.
“Having that pronunciation ‘Aille,’ also touches on the personal “I” and the physical ‘eye,’” Alexa says. “So personal in the sense that all of our products are meant to increase independence and empowerment. They really allow the person to take on their full identity and be themselves, wear the fashion that they want, and do it on their own terms. And then the functional ‘I’ in the sense that our company really works directly with the visually impaired community to create everything, start to finish. It has those two connections in there. And the actual logo for our company, the two dots, they are the character for the letter I in braille. So you've got two dots on top of the letter I in our logo, and then functionally, it's also how you pronounce the logo.”
As the company expands, Alexa intends to ramp up her inclusivity efforts, from hiring employees with disabilities to making sure the vendors Aille Design works with have robust diversity and inclusion initiatives of their own.