Ailbhe is the founder and creative director of Izzy Wheels. She studied visual communications in art college and now works full time running Izzy Wheels. Izzy is Ailbhe,s younger sister. She is Izzy Wheels brand ambassador, studying politics and French in the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). We have always been very close because we are the two youngest. We have two other older siblings called Sinéad and Evin, who live in America.
When was Izzy Wheels born?
We always loved decorating the wheels on Izzy’s chair. Even when she got her first wheelchair when she was just four years old there are photos of us decorating her wheels! We continued creating fancy wheels for her chair throughout her childhood for special occasions. For my final year project in art college in 2016, I decided to make my final year project all about decorative wheel covers and the idea for our brand was born.
Your Izzy wheels are infused with colour. How important is it for you and your brand to use such vivid colours?
I’ve always loved bright colours and loud prints. I’m always dressed in vibrant colours because it makes me feel happy, especially when I am out and about. Our Mum is an incredible gardener and has such in-depth knowledge and adoration for flowers and colours, so I think that’s where my appreciation for colour came from.
How do you want people to feel when they use Izzy Wheels?
Izzy Wheels are used as a way to express your individuality and personality. Fashion is a way of expressing who you are and Izzy Wheels work the same way. They also act as an icebreaker and conversation starter.
What material are the wheels made of and How is it attached to the wheelchair? The wheel covers are made from strong, waterproof, and scratch-proof plastic. They attach directly to the wheels of the wheelchair with velcro straps. They are easy to swap on and off so you can have different wheel covers for different outfits.
What is the Izzy Brand appeal? Our brand is very authentic and full of playfulness. We pour our hearts into everything we do and as a result, we have a very loyal community. Everything we do is with our end-users in mind and everything is created with lots of care and love.
Do your covers appeal more to the young or do you get interest from a wide cross section of ages?
We have users of all ages and genders. Different designs are popular amongst various age groups.
How does Izzy Wheels contribute towards the feeling of empowerment in wheelchair users?
Izzy Wheels empower users to make a positive statement about their disability and their relationship with their mobility device.
Any expansion plans?
We are planning to expand our offering to create lots of functional and fashionable accessories for wheelchairs.
What types of artists do you like to work with most?
We have received thousands of applications from designers and brands who want to work with us. We are very selective about who we work with and we ensure that the designers’ ethos and style aligns with ours. We love designers who aren’t afraid to use lots of colour and playfulness in their work. We have an application page on our website where aritsts can send us their bio and portfolio.
Do you make personalized wheel chair covers?
We do indeed create personalized wheel covers. People can send us their own designs and we can print them onto wheel covers for them.
At the end of each work day, what gives you the most joy?
It is an absolute privilege being able to work with such amazing artists and brands that I’ve admired for so long. My favorite part of the job is definitely when people send us photos of themselves, modeling their wheel covers. It’s a very special feeling as a designer seeing something that you’ve created being enjoyed in such a wonderful way.
What do you find most challenging?
When you are your own boss you have to trust your own gut all of the time. It’s up to you to make all of the big decisions for your company so that can feel like a lot of pressure at times.
Izzy: As Brand Ambassador, will you say this job has made it easier for you to have conversations about mobility and disability issues?
Having decorated wheels encourages people to address my chair and ask me questions about it which I really like. I have a really positive relationship with my chair so I like being able to talk about that.
When Izzy and Ailbhe aren’t working on their brand, what are your other pursuits?
My other passion is definitely in fashion and vintage clothes. I recently set up a Depop shop @ailbhekeane where I collect and sell some of the amazing colourful pieces that I find. It’s a little side hobby that I started over lockdown but I love photographing and styling outfits so it’s been really fun and therapeutic.