Parksville clothing designer and seamstress Deborah Baergen has discovered a business model based on taking people’s perfectly good clothes and cutting them up.
In an effort to make them even more perfect.
Adaptive Clothing by Kayden Design opened its doors in a combination showroom and workshop attached to Baergen’s home on Cypress Street in Parksville last September.
Basically, Baergen and seamstress Connie Nytchay create or adapt clothing for special needs residents of care homes, those in wheelchairs or other circumstances requiring specially adapted clothing.
Most needed are tops and pants that open from behind, providing caregivers access to changing clothes or continence briefs.
“I did some research and discovered there’s very little out there serving this need,” Baergen said from her workshop. “Plus, my mom was in a nursing home 10 years ago, and when I looked around at what people were dressed in, it saddened me a little.”
Her products include tops and pants that open in the back, nighties and pyjamas, cozy fleece wraps, shawls and capes and accessories like lap pads, shirt savers, “handaids,” and custom-designed totes and bags for wheelchairs and walkers.
Some of the items are new, but Baergen has found a niche in adapting existing clothing for people who may have found themselves in wheelchairs or limited mobility situations through age, illness or injury.
“The nice thing about used clothing is, quite often people moving into care homes, they’ve got a wardrobe full of designer labels,” she said. “I can take that designer stuff, or higher-end things, and turn them into adaptive clothes for them, and they can still get a lot of use out of them.”
Baergen said Adaptive Clothing by Kayden Designs is the only business of its type on Vancouver Island. There are catalogue outlets serving the adaptive clothing market, but she said those products sacrifice fashion on the alter of functionality — when there’s no reason the wearer can’t have both.
“This isn’t just for older people,” said Baergen. “There are younger people in wheelchairs, and they have zero available (commercially). All the adaptive clothing in the catalogues is for seniors.”
Its products have quickly found a clientelle among residents of local care homes, with Pharmasave and Parksville Life Support among the outlets for some items.
The idea for the business arose from Baergen’s conversation with a neighbour who works supplying care homes in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area, who shared with her the need.
“She said, ‘Deb, you sew; you’re so creative. There’s a real need for adaptive clothing, for open-backed clothing,'” Baergen said. “I decided to jump in with both feet.”
It is not Baergen’s first crack at running a business. Orginally from Kingstong, Ont., she previously operated a consignment shop and gift store there before relocating to B.C. in 2008. She moved from the Interior to Parksville in 2011.
“Having your own business enables you to base your company on what you believe in, she said. “And I believe in integrity and customer service.
“I trained at Sears, and it was drilled into you: customer service. I liked that; it was in my makeup anyway.”
In addition to Nytchay, Baergen employs home-based seamstresses — and she would like to have a lot more of them. She pre-cuts her clothing designs and bags them to be sewn at the seamstresses’ homes.
“It’s a great idea for retired women, or men, or stay-at-home moms,” Baergen said, adding that the items can be assembled with “moderate” sewing experience.
She also has plans to expand Adaptive Clothing by Kayden Designs by taking it directly to the clients.
Within the next six months, Baergen hopes to equip and introduce a handicapped-accessible mobile shopping bus, complete with wheelchair lift, to drive her product line to the nursing homes, residences and individuals’ homes.
This would extend the business’s reach the length of Vancouver Island, from Port Hardy to Victoria.
“There are 80 sites on the Island, not including people in their own homes,” she said. “It’ll be busy. When I talk to the home directors, they’re really excited about the bus.”
Adaptive Clothing by Kayden Designs is accessed off Cypress Street, just off Jensen (look for the sign). Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and by appointment. To schedule an appointment, to inquire about a seamstress position or to donate fabric, thread, buttons or elastic, call 250-927-6529. Visit at www.facebook.com/Adaptive-Clothing-by-Kayden-Design.