Blind Fashion Designer Natalie Trevonne Just Launched Her Own Brand

POPSUGAR Photography / Sarah Wasilak

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sarah Wasilak

When I first met Natalie Trevonne, she was working in consulting and moonlighting as a writer eager to share her frustrations with the fashion industry. Trevonne, 33, began her journey as a legally blind woman at age 18, following struggles with corrective surgery after being diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. She went on to report about the ways in which online shopping lacks in accessibility for POPSUGAR in 2021, and about the poor audio description in popular fashion TV shows the following year. In 2023, she wrote about her experience walking in an inclusive, all-blind runway show. Meanwhile, she was preparing to launch her own brand, NYI, which stands for Not Your Inspiration.

After working with Ernest Spicer, the company’s CTO and designer, on an NFT wedding dress (shown at the first-ever Meta Fashion Week), the two put their heads together to create a clothing brand that Trevonne felt was missing from the physical world. For her, that meant creating pieces with creative embellishments and emphasizing texture, hence the slogan “Style You Can Touch.”

“Take the disability out of it. Would I still be inspirational? If not, then maybe it’s not the compliment that you think it is.”

“As a blind woman, I identify my clothes through textures, so we’re playing with a lot of fun fabrics, like we have silks and lace and leather and corduroy. We have this really sexy tweed dress,” Trevonne explained when she guest-starred on my podcast, “Dinner for Shoes,” in December. “[We’re] really modernizing some classic textures and being able to feel them, so that when you do go into your closet, you’re like, ‘OK, this is NYI.'” Trevonne further elaborated on why texture is key for the blind community, and how it differentiates her label from others. “For a blind person, we can’t have 10 cotton shirts, we’re not gonna know what’s what,” she said. “I have a tweed skirt from Zara that I love, and I know it’s red because it’s my tweed Zara skirt. So I’m adding the color to the texture so I never forget.” Trevonne hopes her customers will be able to do the same with her inventory.

Days ahead of New York Fashion Week, she introduced her first drop to the East Coast at an intimate showing among family, friends, brand supporters, editors, and influencers. I was honored to lead an interview segment and discussion about NYI’s long-term goals, one of which is an advocacy branch called Access Chicks, which will foster community by inviting those with disabilities to in-person sessions where they can learn about fashion and beauty from industry insiders. Trevonne knows how meaningful these NYI-hosted events will be for folks who aren’t as familiar with cultivating personal style and may have questions they don’t normally feel comfortable asking in other settings – while shopping, for instance.

While you’d be hard-pressed to find an accessible brand today with such a specific, driven mission, adaptive clothing lines do exist. Tommy Hilfiger, Victoria’s Secret, Skims, and Target are all big-name companies that have recently made headlines for introducing small batches of products equipped with details like magnetic closures, functional vents and openings, and adjusted fit points. But they’re falling short, according to Trevonne.

Image Source: Courtesy of NYICEO of NYI Natalie Trevonne wears the Bossy tweed dress.

“Adaptive fashion is great, and I’m not arguing against adaptive fashion, because I think it’s helpful,” Trevonne started. “But what I’ve been trying to get brands to do is just to design with function in mind. Like, we don’t need a separate line. People do not want to feel othered. People are not going to go and buy your adaptive stuff, I’m going to be honest. They don’t tend to be that stylish. And I’m not trying to be rude, but usually it’s a button-up and some jeans. My friends who have dexterity issues who are in wheelchairs, they shop at Fashion Nova . . . They want to be included in the regular style. Just add the functionality to your [pre-existing] collections, and the websites.”

[Trevonne is] someone who creates clothing that’s equitable in both style and accessibility, without depending on micro-collections that are othering.”

Trevonne worked with designers Sky Cubacub of Rebirth Garments and Project Runway alum Kyle Denman on the I AM: Inclusive Fashion Experience hosted by LaVant Consulting in October 2023, where NYI first made its runway debut. “[Denman] did not bat an eye when we were like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna have some disabled models.’ He jumped in and made sure that his clothes were functional for everyone,” Trevonne said. “That’s what I loved about these designers: they didn’t make a whole new line, they just incorporated the people with disabilities into their collection to make sure that things fit.”

This idea is significant to the meaning behind the name of Trevonne’s company, Not Your Inspiration. “As a person with a disability, I could be walking down the street and somebody will be like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re so brave. You’re walking out here by yourself? What an inspiration!’ And I’m like, I’m walking like you,” she said. “Take the disability out of it. Would I still be inspirational? If not, then maybe it’s not the compliment that you think it is. And I don’t want to be inspirational for just being blind. Everyone has the opportunity to wake up every day and choose to show up, and I don’t see that as inspiration.”

In the coming months, Trevonne will continue to use her platform and her brand to spread the word about accessibility, while working to launch her advocacy program, Access Chicks. She also hopes to eventually open storefronts, because online shopping is not accessible for everyone. “I would love for blind people to have an actual place to go in and just feel everything and have a good time. And it won’t just be for blind people. I think a lot of people enjoy that about fashion,” she notes. It all proves Trevonne is the type of founder and designer she hopes to see more of in the industry – someone who creates clothing that’s equitable in both style and accessibility, without depending on micro-collections that are othering.

And just like that, Trevonne has realized her own dream. If there’s anything inspirational about her, it’s that.

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