In-Depth with "Patti+Ricky"


By mobileWOMEN Team

Founder, Alexandra Connell
If you are on social media lately, you may have noticed that the Internet has been abuzz about a new company that sells functional fashion for people with disabilities called “Patti + Ricky”. What caught our attention was the fact that they refer to themselves as an “online department store for people with disabilities”! Whaaaaat? Sounds interesting but what exactly does that mean?

Their website features products from 20+ different designers, many of whom live with disabilities themselves. To better understand this "new to our community" concept, we decided to get up close and personal with “Patti & Ricky”. See below, our in-depth interview with founder and “Creative Energy Officer”, Alexandra Connell: 

Mw: What inspired you to start your company? Who is PATTI + RICKY? How did you come up with the name?

AC: I saw a need for a marketplace that offered stylish and functional clothing that catered to people of all abilities. Thinking back, there were many experiences in my life that led me to find PATTIandRICKY.com. Both of my parents worked in the New York City fashion and accessory industry. Conversations in my home included what would be the next fashion trend or what was going to be the “it” colors for fall. I like to joke that I was born into retail and it’s in my blood.

I also grew up with dyslexia and ADHD. During and after college, I worked for nonprofits focused on fostering inclusion. Much of that time inspired me to earn my masters in disAbility Studies. 
Alex giving her mother, Patti(left)!
All of these experiences played roles in the creation of PATTI + RICKY, but the two most significant influences that brought me here, was my time caretaking for my mom Patti and my friendship with my cousin, Ricky. After my mom, Patti, was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she needed a cane to help her walk. Because she was a fashionable and fun woman, she of course wanted a leopard printed cane! I tried my best to find her one but eventually decided on a pretty pink cane with roses. Looking back, I think my mom loved her cane because it was not only her vehicle but also a stylish talking piece that made her feel beautiful. I learned that fashion had the power to support individualized needs, while giving people the opportunity to express themselves and feel great.
   
My cousin Ricky was unable to walk or verbally communicate. He taught me many things, including multiple ways to communicate. He showed me that communicating through our eyes and facial expressions can be just as effective as verbal communication. Ricky had a contagious smile, keen intellect and was a true lover of the arts. Patti and Ricky were both the depiction of cool. Together, Patti and Ricky formed the inclusive lens through which I see the world. I wanted to create an online department store where every product is curated with “PATTI + RICKY approval” in mind. Our mission is to continue to spread the love, understanding, and acceptance that PATTI + RICKY passed on throughout their lifetimes. 
 
Undies with hook & eye fasteners
mW: How did you get started?
AC: My experience donating the pink floral cane that was Patti's (my Moms' cane), led me to an "Aha" moment about fashion and disAbilities. I realized that the power of fashion did not just apply to Patti’s pink floral cane or Ricky's cool wheelchair accessories. Fashion is universal - and should be! So, through intensive market research, I realized there were numerous designers out there making stylish and functional products for individuals with disAbilities. I wanted the products to all be in one place; a place that I could showcase the amazing products, as well as the incredible designers.
As we contacted designers to learn about their products, I learned that most of the designers had disAbilities themselves or are inspired by a loved one with a disAbility. Almost all products on our site originally began to serve a need for themselves or their loved ones. The response from product designers continues to be astonishing! Every designer I have partnered with is very excited about PATTIandRICKY.com. I feel so lucky to be working with incredible designers with inspiring stories. On the site’s “Meet Our Designer” section, customers can learn more about each company and its products.
mW: Tell us about your concept?
AC: Simply, PATTI + RICKY is an online shopping experience that offers stylish and functional designer products for individuals with disAbilities.

Sweater capes that don't get caught in spokes
mW: What products do you sell?
AC: At PATTIandRICKY.com women, men and kids will find stylish and functional clothing and accessories. We sell everything from trendy jeans to Braille printed jewelry to fashionable arm slings and beautiful hand painted walking sticks.

mW: How did you decide which designers to sell?

AC: PATTI + RICKY partners with designers that make products that are functional, high quality and stylish for people with disAbilities. We wanted to create an online department store where every product is curated with Patti and Ricky approval in mind. When I come across a new product, I try to imagine if my mom or cousin would have used it or thought it was cool.
mW: What did you feel was important to offer at your site that you feel was lacking in the market? What makes your site unique?

AC: The shopping experience does not typically include or embrace difference and individuals with disAbilities. PATTI + RICKY aims to provide individuals with disAbilities a one-stop shop with options for stylish and functional clothing and accessories that they usually may not be able to find in a traditional shopping experience.

Stylish gloves that allow finger movement
mW: Are you planning to expand and, if so, in what way?

AC: PATTI + RICKY is searching daily for more design partners and new products to offer our customers. We hope to offer a growing mix of fashionable products that range from affordable to luxury. Pricing will never be the criteria for a product being selected; all products will be curated and selected with Patti and Ricky in mind. PATTIandRICKY.com customers will find a suggestion section where they get our product search team excited about new clothing and accessories they think should be part of our selection. We do our best to find and make available products our customers suggest.

mW: Do you have any products or product concepts you want to highlight?

AC: PATTI + RICKY features a fall season lineup featuring sweaters, rain capes, and new denim fits and washes that customers are loving. Our kids' section also has fun back-to-school gear including compression clothing, neck bandannas, pie-shaped bags, eye patches, and hearing aid charms. We also sell Braille Clothing Patches that are empowering kids who are blind or visually impaired to dress independently, making back-to-school morning routines stress-free. We carry lots of beautiful gifts for loved ones with disAbilities including handmade jewelry like as fidget rings and necklaces, Braille printed cuff bracelets, and hearing aid and cochlear implant ear cuffs. We are looking forward to launching PATTI + RICKY'S Holiday Gift Guide for individuals with disAbilities for this holiday season in the coming months!
mW: Have you been surprised by any result of starting your company? What kind of feedback have you received thus far?

AC: The response from people saying 'This is so needed' has been overwhelming. Over and over, we have had consumers reaching out telling us how important it is for them to have these options, and how happy they are that they found PATTI + RICKY. We hope to inspire more designers to create stylish and functional clothing and accessories for individuals with disAbilities.
Fashionable denim for wheelchair users
mW: Specifically for wheelchair users, what can we find on your site?

AC: Customers will find fashion-forward, protective leather gloves and stylish pie-shaped bags that can be attached to many different vehicles including the wheels of manual wheelchairs. We also feature a beautiful lingerie department, which includes bras with front closures and underwear that have hook and eye fasters on both hips that make them easy to put on and off for many individuals.
Our Fall 2017 essentials include trendy jeans for wheelchair users designed by an awesome woman who uses a wheelchair. These jeans feature accessible pockets, high back rise, back elastic waistband, straps for ease of dressing, tummy control panel and invisible catheter opening, and a faux fly. Also, we carry blue, black, and gray versatile pants that open completely to the knees via three strategically positioned zippers. This unique fully frontal opening allows for an easier and faster access to the abdomen - for issues typically related to incontinence, wound care, or bags. Current customers report efficient time savings, less back strain, less skin shear probability, and less exposure creates more dignity. To stay warm in the brisk fall weather, we also feature cozy sweater capes that will not get caught in spokes, magnetically infused dress shirts, and rain capes that fit perfectly over wheelchairs.
Mw: Is there anything else you would like to mention?

We want to thank mobileWOMEN.org for this amazing opportunity to highlight PATTI + RICKY. We greatly appreciate your support.

mW: Our pleasure!

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