Woman, 24, with chronic illness launches customised denim jacket business

Connie Wardale upcycles preloved denim jackets for brides and festival goers.

Connie Wardale upcycles preloved denim jackets for brides and festival goers. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson/Archant

A 24-year-old who has been unable to hold down a job due to her chronic illnesses has launched a new business which customises vintage denim jackets.

When Connie Wardale, from Newton St Faith, was just 13-years-old she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) and Fibromyalgia.

Her symptoms include extreme exhaustion, fatigue that doesn’t improve with sleep, severe headaches, joint and muscle pain and problems with concentration and memory.

Connie Wardale has begun creating unique denim jackets for bridal parties and festivals.

Connie Wardale has begun creating unique denim jackets for bridal parties and festivals. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson/Archant

This means some days she can struggle to even get out of bed.

But now Miss Wardale has found a way to work around her conditions and get back some of her independence, with the opening of Bells and Whistles, selling customised vintage jackets for weddings and festivals.

"It was really tough at school; trying to get qualifications and work places aren't always as accommodating as you would like them to be," she said.

Connie Wardale is selling her bridal party denim jackets on Etsy.

Connie Wardale is selling her bridal party denim jackets on Etsy. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson/Archant

"But in the last year, I started working for a glitter bar company, going to weddings, festivals and events.That's how I got into the industry. I just absolutely loved it

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"A lot of wedding suppliers are self employed, so I thought that would be the best way to go for me."

Miss Wardale, who grew up in Hellesdon, got engaged to her partner when she was 21, but due to Covid-19 her wedding was put on hold.

Connie Wardale has a range of customised denim jackets and bags for sale on her Etsy site.

Connie Wardale has a range of customised denim jackets and bags for sale on her Etsy site. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson/Archant

It was during that time that she was inspired to start her business.

She said: "Our wedding will have a quirky, festival theme and I was looking for a jacket which was a bit more out there. 

"But it was all very white and plain. There didn’t seem to be anything colourful or what I was looking for. So I thought would make my own."

Bells and Whistles are a new customised bag and jacket company from Norwich.

Bells and Whistles are a new customised bag and jacket company from Norwich. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson/Archant

Miss Wardale buys perfect condition pre-loved jackets from the online selling site, Vinted, then personalises each one upon request.

She also sells one-of-a-kind designs which you can buy from her online shop on Etsy, as well as customised bags.

"It's really exciting to have something which I can call my own and to be proud of," added Miss Wardale.

"Being a person with a disability its difficult when people ask what you do for a career. All I can say is that I have to manage my health. People forget that having a chronic illness is kind of like a full time job.

Fringed denim jackets for bridal parties and festival goers are a speciality for Bells and Whistles

Fringed denim jackets for bridal parties and festival goers are a speciality for Bells and Whistles. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson/Archant

"It feels incredible to say that I have a business."

You can follow Miss Wardale's online business here.