Moray Luke with one of her bags in brown

Dyspraxic handbag designer says disability inspires her ideas

Moray Luke, who has dyspraxia caused by cerebellitis, wants to shine a light on discrimination and hidden disabilities

A neurodivergent fashion designer who was diagnosed with dyspraxia after a childhood brain injury says her disability makes her more creative.

Moray Luke launched an eco-friendly handbag brand in her bedroom just 18 months ago, and has since featured on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, held a show at Paris Fashion Week and released 3 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.

Handmade get well cards frm Moray's classmates
Handmade get well cards from Moray’s classmates

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 8.

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.

Moray in a pink dress, standing in front of a blue wall. The dress has a square pattern made up from the words Moray Luke and eating candyfloss. She is holding a Moray Luke handbag.
Moray Luke with one of her white Meredith handbags. Photo by Gigi Aleksieva.

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.

A green Moray Luke handbag and shopper on the dockside with boats in the background
Moray Luke salmon leather handbags in green. Photo by Gigi Aleksieva.

This provides a more durable and sustainable alternative to the unsustainable exotic leathers used by other fashion brands such as snakeskin.

The bags are also made with soft curved edges and tactile, strokeable 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.

Designer Moray Luke photographed against a background of a fishing net and sea shells as a nod towards her influences
Designer Moray Luke’s latest range is influenced by the sea. Photo by Gigi Aleksieva.

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.”

A bag order ready to be dispatched from the Moray Luke workshop. Photo by Gigi Aleksieva.

Moray Luke handbags are available in boutiques across the UK and online.

Categories: Neurodiversity, Real life stories

Published: 12 June 2023