Innovation Showcase: Limon Attire

Innovation Showcase: Limon Attire

Barbara Lewis was inspired to set up Limon Attire after she and her sister noticed a gap in the market for attractive clothing protectors. She spoke to BQ about why her products are important, where she plans to take Limon Attire from here, and what the Innovation Showcase will mean for her business.

Describe your business in brief…

Limon Attire came about after my sister and I spent over 3 years looking after my mother, who had dementia. We found lots of useful equipment but no-one took account of appearance or how this can affect how people treat you. For example, protecting clothing at meal times meant ugly ‘adult bibs’ or ineffective serviettes. We set about changing that and now Limon Attire designs and makes beautiful garments to help maintain the dignity, identity and individuality of those living with dementia and help relieve a little stress from their carers’ lives.


How would you describe that to a novice?

No more nasty, plastic ‘bibs’ at mealtimes or nakedness at shower times – Limon Draprons® are both practical and beautiful garments which restore dignity to those living with dementia.


What prompted you to enter the Innovation Showcase competition? Describe the innovation that you’ve entered the showcase with. 

I am currently engaged with the Business Growth Hub and when they sent me information about the showcase it seemed a good opportunity to raise the profile of my products and the problems they were addressing. Whilst I knew I was being innovative I had the impression that the innovations had to be technology based. However, having spoken with Nathan Leah at the Hub he convinced me that I should enter.

Appearance and dress are profoundly linked to identity and the way others regard us and treat us, this is no less the case for those living with dementia, but there is little attention paid to it or research carried out.

Plenty of helpful equipment exists, but the clothing that is available is unattractive and demeaning. I was determined that my stylish mother would not be seen in a plastic, paper or dull ‘bib’ so started by designing my own clothing protector which was not only joyful and attractive, it was also engaging, as the large bright designs were made up to face her, rather than the carer.

Helping someone to shower can be stressful for all involved, particularly when they may not quite understand why they need help. Who wants to be helped to shower by others and sit there naked? Again, challenging the norm I designed a simple but very effective garment to shower her in which meant mum was a lot less agitated and we were less stressed.

The practical, joyful range will challenge the world to think creatively to solve the problems of caring, and help people with dementia dress to reflect their individuality and personality, not just for the convenience of carers. We need to look at life from their point of view.

I also challenge the language used. We should not be using the words bibs and nappies when talking about adults. They deserve our respect so names of products have been considered carefully.


What are the biggest challenges you face?

Finding manufacturers in the UK that believe in what I am doing and are willing to work with small quantities until I become established.

Finding fabric of the right quality – I need joyful and colourful prints on robust fabric that can be heavily laundered if necessary. The fabric also needs to be non-shrink as I use different fabrics within one garment and I need to avoid differential shrinkage. I have been surprised at how many fabrics are not pre-shrunk.

Then, getting the word out to potential customers - I really want to reach those who are caring at home, and they are a disparate group.


What are your biggest professional achievements to date?

The biggest achievement in my life has been learning to be a good carer to my mother.

The biggest professional achievement has probably been overcoming the fear of starting out in business on my own. I have had nearly 20 years’ experience in fashion buying but starting from scratch on your own is something quite different and very challenging.


How do you feel about presenting to potentially hundreds of people at Venturefest Manchester?

I am really looking forward to it. I can’t wait to tell the world about my products and let people know that they don’t have to put up with ugly and demeaning ‘bibs’ and nakedness in the shower.


What would winning the Innovation Showcase mean to your business?

It would bring public awareness to the issue of dress and dementia. It would give the business much needed exposure and credibility and hopefully bring manufacturers that want to work with me to develop beautiful and practical products to improve life, in some small way, for those living with this dreadful disease.


Where do you see your company in five years time?

I intend to be offering a full range of merchandise including nightwear and daywear, for both men and women, which will be globally available. I adapted many items of my mother’s clothing so that she could continue to look ‘normal’, so still have many items to add to my range.

I want to explore and research different and new fabrics and get designers and manufacturers excited about this area rather than seeing an attitude of ‘well they don’t know, so what does it matter.’ It does matter and often, if we look, we can see that the person is still there and cares about how they look. In her research, Professor Julia Twigg concluded ‘despite assumptions to the contrary, that dress remained significant for people with dementia, continuing to underwrite identity...’.

Quality of design, make, fabric and attention to detail will show they are still valued. This, in addition to taking into account their personal style, will show the respect they deserve.

I also have plans for carers’ clothing, for example, to offer an attractive and engaging alternative to the standard disposable polythene aprons. Again I saw this work with my own mother – she would tear the disposable aprons off me, but became engaged with a more attractive one I designed.

Our attractive range will have a positive effect on both wearer and carer.


What advice would you give to aspiring innovators?

Be determined, have the self-belief to know you are right and don’t give up!

Are you an innovator, investor or entrepreneur? Then find out more about Venturefest Manchester 2016 and book your free place today!