Participant-founded clothing line focused on celebrating diversity and sport

When she couldn’t find what she was looking for, Desiree made it herself.  It’s a telling anecdote that is reflective of her approach to business and life.

Wheel and Axle, her online clothing brand, blends fashion with a social message about the beauty in diversity and the ability in everyone.

“I started because I am part of a wheelchair rugby community and I didn’t see any clothing brands geared towards the younger active wheelchair user population,” says the 16-year-old. “It was something that was important to me as a wheelchair user.”

Desiree founded Wheel and Axle with her family, “It’s been pretty cool. They went off my passion and supported me through it,” she says. From concept to branding and website design, they worked through the process and launched the site in November 2017.

Notably excited about the work to date, Desiree is quick to explain where the idea is heading. She has hopes to expand to include adaptive clothing, with different zippers and closures that are easier to navigate from a wheelchair. There is an even bigger goal woven into the fabric of Wheel and Axle though. It’s about getting dressed every day in something that celebrates diversity, Desiree says, and she’ll deem it a success when inclusivity is second nature.

“Our goal is to encompass the heart, passion, diversity, strength and enjoyment of living an adapted life,” she says. “We exist to share the inspiring message of many individuals who are devoted to adapted sports, open to new challenges and celebrating the diversity of who we are.”

For Desiree, that conviction is grounded in her experiences with Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence (PISE) and Power To Be.

“It was through my time at PISE drop in wheelchair basketball and rugby on Sundays that I began to be transformed. I got invited to take part in the BC games and met so many powerful individuals that don’t let living an adapted life stop them from flying,” she says.

With Power To Be, she has explored trails via a TrailRider and learned camp skills with peers. She also participated in the TC10K with a group from Power To Be, PISE and Recreation Integration Victoria last year, something she never would have imagined possible without the groups involved.

“Power To Be has definitely influenced Wheel and Axle. It was the first time I had experienced something truly barrier free and they helped instill confidence in me,” she says. “Through Power To Be, I realized that to every obstacle there is a way around it. That gave me a lot of confidence. Those kinds of things helped shape Wheel and Axle as a brand.”