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fairytale story Galway sisters' wheelchair designs taking the world by storm after joining forces with Disney

The brainchild of amazing and beautiful Galway sisters Isabel and Ailbhe Keane, Izzy Wheels is making headlines

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Ailbhe and Izzy are now working with Disney and hope to launch a fashion range

Ailbhe and Izzy are now working with Disney and hope to launch a fashion range

Ailbhe and Izzy hope to launch a fashion range

Ailbhe and Izzy hope to launch a fashion range

Izzy Wheels is taking the world by storm

Izzy Wheels is taking the world by storm

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Ailbhe and Izzy are now working with Disney and hope to launch a fashion range

Once upon a time there were two young sisters from the majestic kingdom of Galway. One had been wheelchair bound for most of her life, the other was a creative art-college graduate. Both were passionate about normalising disability.

Despite their youth and lack of marketing experience, together these fair maidens would combine their abilities in a joint business venture. And thus they embarked on a journey that would one day lead to success beyond their wildest dreams. They lived happily ever after…

It could be a fairytale, but in fact the story of Izzy Wheels, the company founded by Isabel (24) and Ailbhe (28) Keane is very much true.

These two creative young ladies have been designing and manufacturing wheelchair covers, for the last five years and already they’ve made headlines.

Now the fairytale has been taken to another level, as they’ve officially joined forces with the biggest animation company in world — Disney.

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Ailbhe and Izzy hope to launch a fashion range

Ailbhe and Izzy hope to launch a fashion range

Ailbhe and Izzy hope to launch a fashion range

The business began as Ailbhe’s final year project, designing wheel chair covers, whilst studying Visual Communications at the National College of Art and Design The idea was to make the wheels on her sister Izzy’s wheelchair come to life.

Decorating Izzy’s wheelchair was nothing new. The girls have always had a close relationship and as young children, they would help their mother Margaret do it for special occasions, using bits of coloured paper and material.

Izzy had been born with spina bifida but this helped to normalise her disability and led to her having a positive attitude towards her wheelchair. But she was aware that not everyone had the same outlook.

“I used to find that people on the street would unintentionally give me looks of extreme pity,” she says. “But having my wheels decorated, made my wheelchair inviting and showed people, without my saying anything, that wheelchairs are positive. The message is: don’t be afraid of the wheelchair or the person in it,” she adds.

After Ailbhe finished college, she continued to keep making the wheelchair covers. “It was never meant to be a business,” she says. “It just evolved naturally.”

Soon other designers were approaching them to get involved and they began to approach people, whose work they liked. “We found that our designs were also meeting their fanbase. It was a great way to get the word out there,” explains Ailbhe.

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And then something amazing happened. They were approached to make a video by the US business news website Business Insider. The video was shown 3 million times in a day and 16 million times in one week alone.

“Suddenly everything exploded,” says Ailbhe with emphasis. “We were getting thousands of messages a day.”

That was 2017 and it was the moment the girls realised they were involved in something really special. Since then they’ve been doing two collections a year, designing for both kids and adults, and working with bigger and bigger brands including Barbie and Hello Kitty.

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Izzy Wheels is taking the world by storm

Izzy Wheels is taking the world by storm

Izzy Wheels is taking the world by storm

Top of their wish list however has always been Disney. “Growing up, we loved Disney movies,” says Ailbhe with passion. “As an artist, I adored the animation, whilst Izzy was drawn in particular to the storytelling.”

Disney approached the girls following a TV appearance and it has taken two years for the details of the collaboration to be ironed out. As a result, they now have usage of its extensive catalogue of character artwork, from Disney, Pixar and Marvel.

Their designs feature the likes of Olaf from Frozen, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and Spider-Man, characters they grew up watching in Disney movies.

Working with Marvel allowed them to design for a more traditionally male market using muted, darker colours. “That was fun, because it was different.,” says Ailbhe. “Both Izzy and myself are quite girlie in our fashion sense and that has been reflected in our designs up to now.”

In fact, both young women have always been passionate about fashion and adore vibrant colours and lively patterns. Ailbhe would often make wheel covers that would match Izzy’s outfits. They mention labels such as MSGM and Enzo as amongst their favourites.

This is where the fairytale continues. The girls have now decided they’d like to work on designing clothes for wheelchair users of all ages. Not just any clothes – but fashion.

They point out that although some brands feature people with disabilities as part of their ad campaigns, no one is designing fashionable clothes specifically for those who use mobility devices.

“I think brands being inclusive is so important but a lot of the time they have the wrong idea,” says Izzy. “As wheelchair users we have spending power and we have fashion sense. We’re dying to have a choice of clothes to buy, but they’re simply not out there.”

They girls are appealing to fashion companies to get involved. With 40,000 wheelchair users in Ireland alone, it’s a massive untapped market.

“A lot of fashion brands simply haven’t thought of this,” adds Ailbhe. “But if any designers out there would like to make a change, they know where to find us!”

Both sisters agree that Izzy Wheels has changed their lives for the better. “For us it’s not simply a business,” says Ailbhe. “There is such a positive community surrounding it. We genuinely love what we do.”

Izzy agrees: “I’ve always wanted some way to help people to understand that a disability can be reflected in a positive light,” she says. “Izzy Wheels is the perfect way to do that. It really is just like a fairytale.”

Visit Izzywheels.com for more information.

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