The four generations of women that make up The Able Label
Katie created The Able Label as a way to bring independence and a love of fashion back into her grandma's life after she was diagnosed with Parkinson's.
Katie combined her knowledge and background in fashion with a determined mission to bring her adaptive designs to more people to make them feel confident and comfortable in the clothes they wear. Even as the business has grown, Katie, her mum, her grandma and daughters have all played an integral part of the family business. Read our Q&A with Katie about how it feels to have four generations woven into the fabric of The Able Label and what it's really like behind-the-scenes of a family business...
Let’s start at the beginning and tell us about how your grandma inspired The Able Label.
I saw first hand the difficulties my grandmother faced when dressing, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. She especially struggled with manipulating fiddly fastenings like buttons, getting items over her head and bending down to pull trousers up. She also faced cognitive difficulties and would often dress items back to front. Later on, she needed more help with assisted dressing. We searched together for some solutions, but were both shocked by the lack of options available.
The Able Label was created to overcome such physical, cognitive and emotional challenges so many face with dressing on a daily basis. Our aim is to bridge the gap between function and fashion and give back independence as well as grow self-confidence. This is something not currently done by the fashion industry and we want to change this to help those in a similar situation to my grandmother.
How did your grandma help you develop The Able Label products?
She told me she felt as though she’d lost her dignity and independence, she certainly wasn’t going to sacrifice her style too - it therefore became my main goal to help her overcome these feelings. Designing, developing and testing a range of great-looking, adaptive clothes - she would often try items on so we could check ease of dressing and how the items fit on her.
When trying items on with her, she always used to say, “if you can help one other person in the position I am in, keep going”. She loved that the clothes didn’t look different to the clothes she wanted to wear, yet made life easier. I hope she continues to be proud of the work we have done with The Able Label in developing it to the brand it is today.
On the left you can see Katie's proud nan modelling an early version of our Imogen Jersey Shirt!
You’re lucky enough to work alongside your mum, did that happen quite naturally? How did your mum come to work with you on The Able Label?
It did - she has been involved since inception. The business really started when my nan needed a carer whilst mum (the sole-carer for nan), recovered from a serious operation.
My nan who at the time was living at home on her own at the grand age of 94, was adamant she didn’t want to go into a care home but knew she still needed some help to maintain as much independence as possible. I therefore decided to leave my job as a fashion buyer to become her carer whilst mum recovered.
At the same time, I began work on my dream establishing The Able Label with the aim of encouraging independence and self-confidence through clothing. Once mum had recovered, she helped with this and came to focus groups, trade shows etc helping to develop and grow the business. She now oversees customer services and of course plays the most important role of nana to Eva and Emily.
Describe a normal day in the office at TAL (as best as possible!)
A normal day in the office, is anything but normal! I get in and get the girls settled before starting my day. My role is focused more on buying so I check stocks and sales frequently, place orders and work on new designs for forthcoming seasons. The day is broken up with a lot of games of hide and seek in between!
I imagine it must be super comforting going into work with family around. What do you love about going to work with your mum and little ones?
You’ve not only been working on growing the business but also as mum to two kids. How do you balance these?
With great difficulty!! Running a business is tough but being a Mum is the hardest job of all. Good job I love both!
With the support of my mum and dad, I’m able to work a couple of days a week knowing the girls are in safe hands. There’s also a great team (who I can’t thank enough), working behind the scenes keeping everything running smoothly.
As I spend most days looking after the girls, I then spend most evenings doing my day's work once they have gone to sleep. I don’t think I have ever been so efficient - it’s incredible how much you can get done when you have such little time. This then enables me to spend quality time with them and continue to work on the thing I love - The Able Label.