Moray Luke launched eco-friendly handbag brand in her bedroom just 18 months ago, and has since featured on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den, held a show at Paris Fashion Week and released three collections.
But aged just 16, teachers told Moray she ‘shouldn’t bother’ applying to art school and she felt she never fitted into a neurotypical world which wasn’t made for her.
The 26-year-old, from Porthcawl, South Wales, developed cerebellitis, a rare neurological condition where the lining of the brain becomes inflamed, after a bad bout of chicken pox aged eight.
This caused damage to her brain which meant Moray was hospitalised for six months and had to learn to walk again.
As a result, she was diagnosed with dyspraxia, a developmental condition which affects her coordination and movement.
Moray, who has a hundreds-strong waiting list for her sustainable handbag line, said: “The fashion world was an escape for me.
“As a child recovering from brain injury, I daydreamed because people weren’t taking me seriously and I felt I didn’t fit into the ‘normal’ world.”
For Moray, her dyspraxia causes problems with her vertigo and balance, meaning she struggles with tasks like taking escalators, tying her shoelaces and reading words or numbers written on graph paper.
She also experiences panic attacks, heightened sensory perception and visual distortions.
But while Moray feels she has had to mask her invisible disability to fit into a neurotypical world, she feels it has given her unique attributes which have helped her excel in the fashion industry.
She said: “If I woke up tomorrow without a disability, I would be like everyone else & I wouldn’t want that.
“As a neurodivergent adult my disability means I have better ideas and think outside the box – it’s certainly been a strength for having my own fashion business.
“From a young age I became skilled at learning how to read people and I’ve had to learn how to pitch, convey my ideas and be charming and dynamic, because I couldn’t get things down on paper.
“I’m seen as an innovator, and it’s not because I’m necessarily naturally that way, it’s because I grew up in a system which was about ticking boxes, and I wasn’t able to follow normal rules or fit in.”
Moray’s environmentally-friendly handbags were influenced by her favourite childhood tale The Little Mermaid are made from waste fish leather from the £618 million Scottish salmon industry.
This provides a more durable and sustainable alternative to the exotic leathers used by other fashion brands such as snakeskin.
The bags are also made with soft curved edges and tactile, strokable textures, something that is useful for neurodivergent people who experience sensory overwhelm.
As someone who feels she has been misunderstood for all of her adult life due to her dyspraxia, Moray now wants to use her platform to unmask her invisible disability.
She is acting as an ambassador for The Brain Charity to raise awareness of the unique skills neurodivergent people possess.
She said: “I want to stop masking and stop feeling like I have to hide my disability. I’m proud to be disabled.
“People say I don’t ‘look’ like the typical face of disability, which is why I think it’s so important to share my story, because what does that even mean?
“I know many disabled people don’t get to have the opportunities I’ve had, and this is something I’m passionate about changing.
“Fundamentally, it is my dyspraxia which brings the creativity and mindfulness which helped me discover fish leather in the first place, as a sensory and engaging texture which I knew would be perfect for my handbags.
“I wanted to work with The Brain Charity because I never want anyone else to go through the discrimination I did.
“While my life may look glamorous, I want to show that disabilities are often hidden.”
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