Hope + Story - the fashion that fights for equal opportunities
PUBLISHED: 10:31 16 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:03 16 January 2018
Susanna Kelly, from Sale, founded Hope + Story in 2016, here she tells us why she fights every day for the rights of those less ordinary
As the New Year sails in, it does so on a breeze heavily scented with notes of hope and aspiration as we commit to do, be and experience better things for ourselves and those around us. We make a pact with ourselves to be fitter, healthier; we’ll get that promotion and earn that extra money; we’ll buy that bigger house, car, dog…these heady post-Christmas days are all about creating a better life experience. And that’s okay.
As a Disability Confident Leader for the DWP, a mental health advocate, ambassador and owner of a retail business that also helps young people living with disability to transition into work, fighting for opportunities for them to simply be included in a life as ordinary as everyone else’s is what I do.
I have the privilege of working with and mentoring talented young people whose aspirations and dreams are no less important than ours; whose skills, talents and commitment to making positive contributions to their jobs, their communities and to themselves are no less significant than ours; whose dreams of leading a life where they are simply included have profoundly affected me and my desire to see a New Year where inclusivity is a thing, not a thought or a well-intentioned conversation.
You see for the thousands of people living with disability who want desperately to work, the sad reality is that they are judged by their disability, not their ability.
Let me introduce you to two very special young people. Issy Quinn is 23 years old and has worked in my business for the past 18 months. She is passionate about her role as a fashion and lifestyle assistant, model, sales order processor and occasional maker of the tastiest of teas for our clients.
Issy has never had a day off sick, even when she’s walked through the door looking as if she were meant to blend in with our vintage white office walls. She has never complained, never moaned about the work she is tasked to do. She does what she knows she needs to do and she loves doing it. She is quite possibly the most committed and loyal employee I have ever had.
She also happens to have Downs Syndrome. Far from her condition defining her, it has shaped and defined who I have become as an individual and as an employer, just as it has enriched the culture inside my business.
Not too long ago I met George Burgess, a 25-year old from Altrincham, who was introduced to me as a great guy who ‘did a bit of photography’. Far from doing a bit of photography, George is one of the most talented photographers I have ever met. His attention to detail, his ability to capture and create fashion, portrait and abstract images is simply breathtaking.
His work leads you on a journey of discovery, not least of which provides us with a pixel perfect perspective on his personal gift: his Autism. George was encouraged not to go to university because ‘George and his Autism wouldn’t cope’. George, however, felt differently and despite his anxiety and fear of the beast described to him, went on to achieve a degree in photography.
Since graduating George has continued to push forward with his passion and past the perceptions of his being somehow lesser-abled because of his Autism. It is bone-shatteringly disappointing that such attitudes remain, because in reality George is far more talented than many other photographers working out there.
I feel a profound sense of pride and gratitude that Living Edge has given us a platform from which George can demonstrate to the world just how brilliant his work really is. They, like us, believe that George, Issy and the very many young people with differences who live among us, don’t need labels. They need employers to open their doors, to engage with them and ultimately to give them opportunities to live the most ordinary of happy, fulfilled lives.
I created fashion brand and online shop, Hope + Story, to give talented young adults of all levels and abilities the opportunity to find employment in the fashion and retail industry. Hope + Story sells cool stuff to wear, to use in the home and to give as gifts. From every purchase made we take 10% and use it to provide direct assistance to people in need in our local communities. As a Disability Confident Leader business we provide young people with disability with opportunities to gain work experience to transition into employment.
Hope + Story launch their #AND? Campaign at the end of January through our social media platforms. Collaborating with fashion, retail and creative media companies, the national campaign will aim to bridge the gap currently filled with fear, uncertainty and a lack of understanding to bring talent together with employment.
To commision George for private or commercial photography, call Susanna on 07805 748 589.