Daughters, meet Carla Macklin, the founder of a new company that has just launched: Alium Adaptive Apparel. The mission of the company is to design clothing to help caregivers have the best access to giving care while keeping the senior feeling comfortable and dignified. Carla showcased her new clothing line at the 2017 National Caregiving Conference where we had a chance to ask her a few questions.
Where did you get the idea to start Alium Adaptive Apparel?
Alium was born after a great deal of soul-searching to find a purposeful way to apply my sewing and design skills. Increasingly I’ve heard stories from friends about the difficulty they face caring for their aging family members and often this difficulty boils down to clothing options. Existing off-the-rack clothing options are often undignified, inefficient, and difficult to wear while adaptive clothing companies look clinical and “old”. I thought simply that I could make better adaptive clothing options that bring in modern touches and innovative design.
What is different about your garments?
The garments are designed to address a number of different issues of aging such as loss of mobility and dexterity, thinning of the skin, incontinence, reduction in circulation, among other things. Our textiles are chosen for their warmth and softness and are sewn with flat interior seams to minimize abrasion to the skin, reducing the potential for bedsores and infections. Innovative textiles have been utilized, such as the soft hook & loop that doesn’t require finger dexterity to open and close. Openings of the garments have been constructed to provide alternate ways for a caregiver to access the body without disturbing the care receiver’s dignity. For example, a catheter need not be disturbed when changing pants and the nightgown need not be entirely removed or shifted up to check how a wound is healing. But in the end it’s about style and each garment must pass the “does it look good?” test. Research shows it’s important to an individual’s mental and physical wellbeing to be dressed for the day in garments they feel comfortable in. We respect that principle in our garments.
What is your design process?
The designs start with research. We have interviewed over one hundred caregivers at this point (medical, professional and family caregivers) about the challenges they face with their care receiver and the clothing options they have use. From there ideas are generated to address these challenges and get incorporated into garments during the prototyping phase. During prototyping, a pattern is made and gets sewn dozens of times for wear testing and trials on real bodies. When we finally feel like it is ready for market, a small production is run. Keeping production small allows us to continue to iterate products based on real customer feedback and we are always looking for customer’s thoughts on how to make our garments better.
What is the future of Alium Adaptive Apparel?
We are positioning Alium to be the innovation leader in caregiving garments. We are devoting a lot of effort to understanding the advancements in antimicrobial, anti-odor, moisture wicking, heat-conserving, and anti-abrasion textiles and plan to incorporate these technologies into future designs. We also plan to expand offerings into menswear and provide a larger range of sizes. Our goal in 5 years is to have a portfolio of garments that can help a wider variety of individuals and their needs.
Thanks so much, Carla, for sharing your process with us. And for any Daughters who wish to share feedback and ideas with Alium, please comment below or reach out to Carla directly HERE!