Illustrators Malika Favre, Hattie Stewart and Annu Kilpeläinen and inclusive fashion label Art School have created a new range of four wheelchair covers for a collaboration between Barbie and Izzy Wheels. The new designs, which launch today (28 August), are available to fit adults’ and kids’ wheelchairs, and have also been produced at Barbie doll size.
Launched by sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane, Izzy Wheels is a brand of wheel covers that aims to allow users to show their individuality through customisation of their chair. It was originally conceived as a college project when Ailbhe Keane spotted that the first thing many people noticed about her sister Izzy, who was born with Spina Bifida, was her chair – something not representative of her personality. Illustrators like Craig and Karl, Morag Myerscough, Camille Walala and Will Bryant have all previously designed covers for the brand.
For this collaboration, the designers and illustrators were briefed to reimagine Barbie for her 60th anniversary this year. Malika Favre’s design features a range of chic women circling around the wheel and is a homage to the feeling Barbie inspired in her as a child. “As a kid, I was fascinated by Barbie, I thought her world was so sophisticated and glamorous,” she says. “My favourite was the 80s Barbie studio and all its accessories. I remember that I couldn’t wait to grow up and become a woman.”
Hattie Stewart was inspired by “Girl Power” for her cover, which features bold patterns, retro type and Barbie characters, as well as Stewart’s trademark hearts. “I was drawn to the iconic Barbie graphics from the 60s, 70s and 80s, and incorporated diverse Barbie doll characters to show all the different facets of ‘girl power,’ says Hattie. “The characters and logo complimented my cheeky and irreverent doodle graphics.”
London-based fashion designers Art School’s design is a kaleidoscopic pattern formed by scanning and editing pieces of crystal. The concept riffs on the duo’s signature spray-painted Swarovski jewellery and explores the idea of turning a wheelchair into an accessory through customisation. Finnish illustrator Annu Kilpeläinen designed a cover that celebrates the “limitless potential of girls” and features hand gestures such as figures encircling a sun and a peace sign smashing through a glass ceiling.
The collaboration continues a move by Barbie manufacturer Mattel to shake off the detrimental image of the toy range, which now includes dolls with a variety of skin tones and of different body shapes. Earlier this year Barbie added two dolls with disabilities to its Fashionistas line, including one with a prosthetic limb and another that uses a wheelchair. The mini version of the collaborative wheel covers will be available to fit the latter.
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Laura is a London-based arts journalist that has been working for It’s Nice That on a freelance basis since 2016. She currently covers the news desk on a Friday for news editor Jenny. Send her all your big stories, projects and exhibitions. You can reach Laura directly on firstname.lastname@example.org or via our news channel at email@example.com.