Super Positivity Spreaders: Elisa Lim

“Why can’t we wear something just because it is not designed to be worn easily?” With that, she launched a clothing label Will & Well to design and customise pieces for people with disabilities.

Super Positivity Spreaders: Elisa Lim
(Illustration: Chan Shiuan)

Many fashion designers take great pride in their experimental and fantastical creations, but Elisa Lim makes clothes that enable people to dress themselves with dignity. Launched in 2017 by the Lasalle College of the Arts alum, Will & Well offers apparel for people with disabilities.

Besides a ready-to-wear collection with features like magnetic snap buttons and full-length front zips, she also has a customisation service to, for example, add a swipe-and-pull drawstring to make dressing up easier.

“My work is about helping others fulfil their dreams,” says Lim. “One client shared how he hopes to get married, but wants his wife to focus on caring for their kids. He wants to be able to dress himself so she will not have to spend too much time taking care of him.”

Since changing an entire wardrobe can be costly, Lim initiated #BeTheDifference — a campaign which allows others to nominate someone to benefit from clothing by Will & Well. “This is something we want to keep running because we feel it is important to ‘be the difference’,” she shares.

Lim’s heart also goes out to Singapore’s migrant worker community. In end April, she launched Give Me A Hand: Circuit Breaker Edition, with proceeds going to the Covid-19 Migrant Support Coalition. Every purchase is on a pay-as-you-wish basis and comes with a chance to participate in an online game of meaningful conversations, which has you answering a series of questions.

“Singaporeans have a home, loved ones and digital access, which some of our migrant worker friends don’t here,” Lim says. “The response has been very good. We are a small community
and any sum we get reflects our best effort to lend support.”

Meanwhile, her six-member team is working on its next project: “Rompers! Everyone complains that going to the bathroom in them is such a pain. But really, why can’t we wear something just because it’s not designed to be worn easily?”

Will & Well offers clothes designed for people with disabilities. Why is inclusivity important to you?
In Singapore, we have opportunities for a good education and a fulfilling career. Our parents and the generations before us have worked hard to create the comfortable environment we were born and bred in, so I feel we shouldn’t drown in our privileges. By extending kindness to others, we can become a blessing to our community. Through my work at Will & Well, I learnt that people who are differently abled aren’t so different from us. Hence, if we extended the same act of kindness as we would to a loved one, anyone — differently abled or not — will appreciate it. Helping to improve others’ lives starts with us becoming more aware of our environment and paying more attention to those in need.

Does your dad still hope you’d become a teacher?
My dad is absolutely supportive of what I do at Will & Well; he and my mum have never pressured me to pursue anything else. My second sister is a big fan and buys so much stuff from us. My family is the reason I can continue to do what I do. You know, I do hope to become a teacher someday, because I want to impart my skills and experiences to the younger generation.

Is that why you started Sew Simple to offer clothes-making and alteration workshops?
Sew Simple offers clothes-making and alteration workshops for two reasons: firstly, to raise awareness on clothing challenges differently-abled people face, and also to provide their caregivers with solutions to restyle clothes for better functionality. I wanted to help others help themselves or their loved ones by teaching them design thinking and simple sewing skills. For caregivers especially, I think our workshops allow them to do something different while helping to assuage their guilt about spending time away from their loved ones.

Lessons you picked up from Covid-19?
As a Singaporean, I have a lot to be thankful for. I was in London for my master’s residency when the city went into lockdown to fight Covid-19. It drove me crazy with worry about not being able to return home, but Singapore brought us back. That experience helped me become more agile both personally and professionally. While I learnt to acknowledge my anxieties, I also had to come up with strategies and solutions to pivot my business. I’m quite excited to see where these efforts will take us!

This is part of our series on super positivity spreaders. For the full story, click here.

This story first appeared in the June 2020 issue of A Magazine.

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