Universal Design for All Abilities with Stephanie and Mary Cayten Brakefield of Brakefields

How Fitting
How Fitting
Universal Design for All Abilities with Stephanie and Mary Cayten Brakefield of Brakefields

In episode 78, mother-daughter duo Stephanie and Mary Cayten Brakefield share their passion for universal design that is fun, comfortable, and accessible. Their brand, Brakefields, is built on the idea that designing accessibility is better for people of all abilities and that fashion should be functional without sacrificing style.

It’s funny how the sum of all your experiences come together to create opportunities. Stephanie Brakefield learned to sew before she started kindergarten, making clothes and blankets for her dolls alongside her mom who was making beautiful garments for herself and her two daughters. In high school, Stephanie spent her free time designing and sewing clothes, painting and working with the disabled population.

Little did she know that some 40 years later, she would come full circle, finding herself creating a universally designed line of clothes with her daughter that encompasses all three of her teenage passions. A lot happened during those 40 years. She attended Vanderbilt University earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Special Education. She taught in the classroom for six years then turned her attention to her favorite job, raising her four children.

A couple of years ago when her youngest daughter, Mary Cayten, suggested they start a brand together, Stephanie was all in, and Brakefields was born! When the Pandemic hit in 2020, the two ladies reached out to women all over the world to find out what their closets lacked and what would make dressing easier.

With an initial focus on designing for disabilities, Mary Cayten and Stephanie soon realized that by adding adaptive features to their garments, their designs were desired by a much larger audience. Whether due to disability, motherhood, a demanding job, or simply an active lifestyle, all women need clothes that equip them for anything their day might ask of them. Quote from Stephanie: “Colors are like children; I could never pick a favorite. They all make me happy! I’ve surrounded myself with color, patterns, art, and fashion for as long as I can remember. In my eyes, leopard is a neutral and hot pink is a basic. I love combining my background in Special Education, love of art and design, and my desire to hear other’s stories into this brand we call Brakefields. And best of all, I get to work with my daughter every day!” 

Mary Cayten Brakefield is the cofounder of Brakefields, a universally designed clothing label that focuses on fashion and function. She, along with her cofounder/mom, work to design vibrant pieces that solve the problems created by traditional fashion. Whether due to disability, motherhood, a demanding job, or an on the go lifestyle, we all need clothing that is more functional and comfortable without sacrificing style. Mary Cayten’s work at Brakefields aims to provide exactly that! Mary Cayten was a student athlete at the University of Tennessee where she studied Retail and Consumer Sciences and earned a Masters of Marketing at Vanderbilt University. Between working with disabled athletes in college and then personally acquiring a disability soon after, she became passionate about accessible, universally designed products in the fashion world and beyond!

Stephanie and Mary Cayten Brakefield of Brakefields on How Fitting podcast episode 78

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What universal design means and why it is important
  • What is is like working as a mother-daughter team
  • The little details that make Brakefields pieces so accessible for all of life
  • How Stephanie and Mary Cayten share their work
  • How on-demand manufacturing allows them to offer more customization
  • The challenges in marketing accessible fashion
  • Stephanie’s and Mary Cayten’s long-term goal for Brakefields
  • Their biggest clothing pet-peeves 

People and resources mentioned in this episode:

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