INGA Wellbeing is named after co-founder Nikla’s mother Inga and also inspired by Claire’s mother Diana, both of whom struggled with what to wear during their treatment for cancer.
These strong, proud, fun-loving women were embarrassed and diminished by the limited and limiting clothing options available to them while hooked up to IV lines, drains and monitors. As a result they walked less, ate less and saw fewer visitors during their frequent, and sometimes long, hospitalisations. This made them weaker and left them feeling helpless. Part of the system. Patients, rather than people, in their eyes; those of the nurses caring for them; and worst still, our eyes.
Having supported our mothers, as well as friends and colleagues, through medical treatment and, as a result of Nikla’s own experiences as an in-patient, we were convinced that clothing adapted to the realities of medical devices and frequent examinations could boost patient’s mental and physical health. And when we spoke to nurses and looked at the research, this conviction was confirmed. Indeed, the nurse-led #endPJparalysis campaign presents striking evidence that what patients wear during medical treatment has a real impact on their wellbeing.
Ensuring that patients can wear attractive and comfortable clothing had become our mission. By joining forces with talented fashion designer Fiona it has become a reality. With the addition of Christine to the INGA Wellbeing team, we hope to get the message out far and wide that patients no longer need to accept the humiliating and awkward status quo. Instead, they can choose clothing that is fit for purpose and beneficial to their physical wellbeing, as well as looking great and being wonderful to wear.
While we have focused on creating clothing for adult patients, we also want to improve the hospital experience for children and have led a fundraising effort to create an outdoor playground at Belgium’s children’s hospital HUDERF. Indeed, we continue to work with the hospital on other ways to reduce young patients’ stress and help them to move about and feel confident.
Having experienced the grim realities of hospitalisation up close, both as patients and as carers, we are passionate about ensuring that those needing medical care can keep their dignity, independence and confidence. We firmly believe it is possible to dress ‘well’ even when unwell.
I believe that if life gives you lemons, you can choose to make lemonade. INGA Wellbeing is my lemonade.
The idea to create comfortable and attractive clothing for patients was inspired by my mother Inga’s struggle to keep her dignity and confidence during treatment for cancer.
My own hospitalisations for ulcerative colitis and the long illness of one of my closest friends made it clear to me how important it is that patients be able to dress themselves and feel ‘normal’.
Thanks to many experts — doctors, nurses, patients and clothing manufacturers – who are similarly determined to change the status quo and improve patient wellbeing, we have been able to create the best possible clothes for the best possible care. I am so proud to be able to make a tangible difference to people’s lives.
Fiona Mc Greal
For me, clothes are more than just fashion. I hope INGA Wellbeing clothes empower patients.
Having worked for many years as a fashion designer, including creating a collection for Belgian luxury brand NATAN and my own high-end label, I wanted to use my skills to help people in a more profound way.
Creating clothing that works well in a medical setting AND looks good and feels great to wear, has been a huge challenge. Key to the success of our final designs are the many discreet openings and our selection of the ‘right’ fabric – natural, wonderfully soft jersey. In the end, some of these pieces are as detailed as a Paris fashion week garment, but without the seven-inch heels!
Hearing from patients that these clothes have helped them to feel ‘normal’, even empowered, at a difficult time in their lives is truly rewarding.
My mother proved that passion and tenacity can move mountains. She inspires my work on INGA Wellbeing.
Clothes were not something my mother fussed about ordinarily. But when she was going through treatment for cancer, she found she had to sacrifice style for function time and again until she no longer felt like herself.
I’ll never forget one hospital visit ‘to see Granny’ when my young son was so shocked by her altered appearance that he hid his face under a blanket. Life is all about relationships – with ourselves, our loved ones, our colleagues and strangers – and current patient clothing options seem to ignore that entirely, making us all unisex and uniform and as a result ‘foreign’.
It was important to me that INGA Wellbeing’s clothing range should be timeless i.e. could be worn by adults of all ages, day or night, whether as an in- or out-patient; as well as versatile i.e could be worn with familiar wardrobe favourites or accessories. That way they feel like, and are seen as ‘more than a patient; a person.’
Working to improve healthcare is a dream of mine. It is a privilege to bring INGA Wellbeing clothes to those who can benefit from them.
I had long wanted to work in healthcare but had taken a career detour via a large multi-national company managing petrol stations! Joining INGA Wellbeing has enabled me to combine my healthcare interest with the very hands-on challenges of startup life.
Nothing is simple or straightforward when you are trying to break the mould as we are, and there are days when we all wonder why we are doing this, but then a customer or senior nurse reminds us of the difference that these clothes make to individuals going through medical treatment and we have renewed energy and focus.
My mission is to help spread the word that patients no longer need to accept the status quo, and indeed that doing so is detrimental to their health. Instead, by choosing to dress ‘well’ even when unwell, patients can help themselves to look and feel better during medical treatment. For me, it is clear that INGA Wellbeing really offers indispensable clothing for ill health and I don’t regret my change of career one little bit!