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A Day in the Life of Elisa Lim, Founder of Inclusive Fashion Label Will & Well

by Voices Wellness 02 Dec 2021
Photo: Elisa Lim

We chat with the founder of the homegrown label to better understand how they design clothing for the marginalised. Interview by SAMANTHA FRANCIS.

Her fashion creations may not grace the runways, but they give people a sense of dignity and empowerment in their daily lives. Meet Elisa Lim, the founder of Will & Well, a homegrown apparel label that designs with the forethought of marginalised groups such as persons with disabilities (PWDs), the elderly, and caregivers. Not only does she pride herself on their ready-to-wear collection, which includes magnetic snap buttons and full-length front zips, she also works closely with clients to “co-design” custom outfits to suit their needs.

Here, we chat with her to find out what keeps her motivated and her brand’s drive for inclusivity. 

You founded Will & Well in your early twenties. What sparked this journey and what kept you going? 

It dawned upon me that I started this company in my early twenties and I’m now in my late twenties. The clients we meet and their stories, which we tell on our blog posts, are what keep me going.  As a design studio, it’s hard not doing anything about the problems that these marginalised people have. We’re motivated by the fact that we can address their issues and produce solutions.

What’s in a day’s work for you? 

My days tend to be rather long, and I usually work over the weekends too, due to commitments aside from Will & Well. I might reply to emails at irregular hours, attend meetings after the regular 9-6, or oversee pop-up events. A day’s work for me usually involves meetings, designing, brainstorming sessions, as well as drafting, altering, and sewing. I also introduce our brand through pop-up open studio sessions as a resident at library@orchard. I especially enjoy it when we run workshops and talks.

Photo: Will & Well

What’s the most fulfilling part about your job and what’s the most challenging?

The most fulfilling part is the meaningful content that we publish online and on socials—they’re worth sharing and giving a voice to. The nature of the work we do is fulfilling, likewise the people we meet. I appreciate them for believing in our work and allowing us to address their needs, down to one-on-one consultations and the co-designing process. This allows us to understand, hear them, and translate their ideas into practical garments that meet their needs.

It’s challenging because we’re a relatively lean team. We used to think it was challenging to educate the market and society about the work that we do, but I think we’ve progressed a fair bit over the years. Thankfully, what Will & Well now does, is no longer all that foreign. We’ve got plenty of ideas but insufficient hands and legs to bring them all to life.

Why does inclusivity matter in fashion? 

I think inclusivity matters in everyday life—from interior design to graphic design, not just in fashion. I see fashion as a medium to pursue inclusivity, which is about acknowledging the different kinds of needs that people have. It’s giving a voice to the marginalised, designing outfits that have certain details in mind, so that it offers a solution to their dressing needs.

Photo: Will & Well

What is functional fashion and how can it improve the lives of the disabled? 

We attempt to address and balance both aesthetic and function. Besides functional needs like keeping us warm and protecting our skin, picking out clothes we love gives us the ability to express ourselves. When we design with the consideration of PWDs, we don’t just look at the physicality of an outfit, we also address how it makes them feel mentally.

We aim to improve design as a generation. Look about how buttons and zips were designed during industrialisation. They are great innovations, and we still use them today. But why is it that we use it in a certain way? Why do we still have zippers on the back of our dresses? Back in the day, people had butlers to pull on the zippers for them. Today, people are independent, and they do it themselves. Then why is it that we still put our zippers on the back when it’s not the most natural motion? It’s rethinking that entire experience and placing the zipper to the front or the side or somewhere else that is more accessible. Not only does this make life easier for you and me, but it also helps PWDs.

How do you incorporate design thinking into your creations?

In our experience, it’s about meeting the needs of our clients. It’s an intuitive process where we first empathise then ideate. We define the design and we put it through prototyping and testing to refine the process.

How can the able-bodied and PWDs help support one another?

I like to encourage the idea of people helping people, whether you’re a PWDs or someone able-bodied. The message we’re trying to bring across is a powerful one—that a PWD’s strengths could lie in many other ways aside from their physical body. Helping each other is about recognising your strength and privileges, and then sharing it with those who might be struggling in other aspects.

Photo: Will & Well

What does wellness mean to you and why?  

I see wellness as a spectrum of different things that make a person feel whole, whether it’s physical, spiritual, or mental. It could be diet, food, exercising, or other things that help you feel physically well. Mental wellness could be what drives u or what supports u mentally. It’s for an individual to define it for themselves. I find spiritual wellness important, such as fulfilling my calling daily as a Christian.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I like playing sorts of sports, including soccer and lacrosse. I also enjoy hiking and exploring new terrain and places. Spending time with my loved ones and checking in on them is also important to me.

What’s on your Christmas wish list this year? 

I honestly want to take a long break and not think about work for maybe a week. I wish for people to find the support they need, for themselves, their loved ones, and their community. Treat yourself better, give yourself the things you deserve, and give to those less privileged than you are—this truly exemplifies the spirit of Christmas.

Find out more about Will & Well here and support our ongoing Voices of Empowerment charity donation drive—whose proceeds go to the benefactors of Will & Well here.

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