Fashion model Alexandra Kutas and Centaur Robotics are united in a shared desire to change attitudes towards disability.
Alexandra fulfilled her dream of being a runway model, despite a spinal injury at birth which left her paralysed from the waist down. And she defied doctors who said she would never have children. Her first child Sofia was born at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in September 2020.
But tackling negative perceptions of the disabled is one of her greatest battles. The 27-year-old has already made waves at home in Ukraine.
Now based in the UK, she’s teamed up with a fashion designer and has a line of clothing, Puffins Fashion, aiming to make life more comfortable for wheelchair users. And, like Centaur Robotics, manufacturer of the personal electric vehicle the Centaur, she wants to do this without sacrificing style and beauty.
A perfect fit for the Centaur
“We want clothes that will do what they are designed for but still look good,” she said. “Most of the things I found looked baggy and unattractive.”
“The inspiration came from struggling with the London rain,” she said. “I found it difficult to use an umbrella and I thought there needs to be a clothing solution to this but I didn’t find anything stylish.”
Alexandra is a perfect fit for the sleek and beautiful Centaur. Centaur Robotics also wants to change the way people think about disability by designing mobility solutions which are desirable as well as functional. The Centaur was the brainchild of company founder David Rajan, whose son Alfie was born with cerebral palsy. David founded the company after he realised there was nothing on the market which was human-centred. He wanted a machine that looked good and would be the envy of all who saw it.
“I think our goals are aligned,” said Alexandra. “There has never been a fashionable wheelchair before. The Centaur can fill that gap – it’s stylish and futuristic.”
Changing the narrative
Alexandra is now juggling her modelling career and fledgling fashion business with the challenge of motherhood.
The doctors in the Ukraine said she would never have children and there was also a stereotypical way of talking about wheelchair users. “I tried to change the narrative and used my work as a model to do that,” she said.
“Now they are reporting in the Ukraine that I’ve had a baby and they are talking about me like anyone else in the news and that makes me feel like the perception in Ukraine is changing.”
Things are better in the UK, but there is still some way to go, she said. “It’s a different thing here, but I still don’t see wheelchair users on billboards.”
Not yet anyway.