When one door closes, another opens.
If anyone had regurgitated this cliché to a then crippled 16-year-old Elisa Lim, she would hardly have been comforted at all.
Growing up as an active girl, she fondly recalled how netball was her first love. Yet, after an unfortunate knee injury forced her to miss a shot at the U-18 national team, she begrudgingly looked for new activities to pass her time on the wheelchair.
That was when the other door opened; a sewing hobby reinvigorated young Elisa and sparked her eagerness to design and make her own clothes.
“I didn’t know about fashion, so I went to libraries to understand more about the art. The more I learned the more interested I became, and so I decided to explore that end after ‘O’ Levels.”
Unsatisfied with what she could learn through books alone, she decided to expand her knowledge and skills by pursuing a fashion design degree at Lasalle College of the Arts.
Her Passion for Fashion
Elisa’s belated passion for the craft, unlike the majority of her fashion design counterparts, gave her a rather innocent opinion of the industry:
“Since I was growing up, I didn’t know fashion. I didn’t know about luxury products so I couldn’t sit with the fact that the craft that I love would eventually lead me to serve the luxury market only… To me it wasn’t enough.”
She explained that fashion design is mostly about individual expression — it is, after all, an art form. However, she animatedly justifies her choice to depart from conventional fashion designing: “it isn’t as if my life is very happening that I have a lot of things to say about myself and to express them through clothes!”
As a result, she chose to focus on the stories of others instead.
During her third year in Lasalle, a doctor asked her to design special clothes for his patients with physical disabilities. At such a critical juncture of her studies where final year project choices had to be made, Elisa was convinced that was the answer she was looking for.
What is Will and Well?
Elisa’s research and time spent on the project made her realise the real need for clothes that accommodate to people with disabilities. Thus, after graduating, she was determined to continue what her final year project had started, eventually paving the way for Will and Well.
With the understanding that wardrobe struggles vary with each individual and disability, Elisa’s label offers to design customised clothes upon request.
“The process (of designing clothes at Will and Well) is very different from your typical fashion design process. Rather than having the designer decide what they want to produce, we do the exact opposite. Our products stem from what our users want and need.”
To Elisa, that little bit of convenience in the morning without dreading the battle with your clothes could make all the difference.
More than Just a Fashion Label
What’s next for Will and Well? To put it simply and in Elisa’s own words, “a lot!”
In addition to enhancing the website’s catalogue, the team is looking to offer design solutions for organisations like schools, hospitals, and elder cares.
But among all the things to look forward to, Elisa is most excited about diversifying her brand. Rather than simply designing functional clothes for people with disabilities, she is aiming to garner more support for them and to further educate the public and caregivers.
“Fashion clothes is one medium, but there are many other mediums out there that could also close that gap and bring support to the people that we stand for.”
This September, Will and Well will host a workshop focusing on the design thinking and technical skills that go into the crafting of its unique products. “Basically I’m trying to duplicate a few of me!” Elisa laughed, “so that eventually we can reach out to Southeast Asia.”
Next on the agenda, and this one caught me by surprise, is the designing and development of card decks. The idea was a result of the team’s wish to facilitate communication between caregivers and their dependents. Rather than simple conversational cards, Elisa believes that the inclusion of a game mechanic could be more meaningful and interesting.
Ultimately, Elisa believes that the priority of Will and Well has always been the people it serves, and her team will continue looking for ways to enhance their lives.
Her Love of Sports
Despite her busy schedule, Elisa always finds the time to enjoy herself through sports.
Although she has never played competitively since her injury, she never stopped herself from indulging in an array of sports in her free time.
Besides netball, her unwavering constant, Elisa told me that she had recently picked up football and bouldering. She went on ardently with a “to-do” list of sports, and I couldn’t help but to point out her seemingly bottomless appetite to try as many things out there as possible.
“I just really love to explore new things.”
That, to me, is a simple yet crucial aspect of Elisa’s approach to anything. From picking up sewing on a wheelchair to finding new ways to help people with disabilities, perhaps it is the simple ideas that bring about the biggest changes.