Get to know our new ambassador: Tilly Dowler

Published on 2nd January 2024 in General

Tilly is smiling at the camera, with her clothes and accessories shop in the background. Shas blonde hair and dark sunglasses resting on top of her head.

We’re pleased to announce that Tilly Dowler is joining our team of ambassadors. Managing Director of Wanted Wardrobe, she’s been a dedicated advocate, raising both funds and awareness for Vista and passionate about “encouraging young people to go for their dreams regardless of disability.”

To be an ambassador for Vista is an honour! To help support the charity in as many ways as possible is one of my aims and they’ve helped me so much already. Raising awareness of sight loss conditions and how everyone that is registered blind hasn’t always completely lost all vision [is really important to me]. – Tilly Dowler.

Our Libby Clegg, Vista Community Fundraiser and Paralympic Champion, sat down with Tilly to have a chat.

Get to know our newest Ambassador, Tilly

Lived experience of sight loss

Tilly , left and her business partner and friend Victoria, right, stand at the bottom of the stairs outside their shop, Wanted Wardrobe. Flowers decorate the bannisters and Wanted Wardrobe is on the black painted wall behind them.

I was diagnosed with Stargardt disease at the age of 15. They sat me down in a room and told me I was going to go blind. This would be hard to deal with at any age, but at 15 when my life hadn’t really started yet, it was extremely difficult to comprehend. I had always dreamed of being a teacher and the future I had planned out came crashing down around me. 

However, I wasn’t going to let it stop me and tried to pursue my plans. I even did my first year of teaching training at university, but as my eyesight deteriorated, I realised it was going to be too hard to continue as I couldn’t see the teaching resources or the children’s faces.

After this, I tried a number of jobs but got made redundant during Covid. Searching for a job was hard as I was unsure what I would be able to manage, and I was scared to apply for things. This resulted in me volunteering at charity shops and this is where I found my passion for pre-loved clothing.

I eventually got offered a paid assistant manager role at the charity shop and loved putting together pre-loved outfits for people and the window display. Sales in the charity shop were 50% higher on the days I worked due to my ability to merchandise and ability to connect with customers. I was also selling pre-loved clothes in my spare time. It became a reality that not only did I love my job, but I was also good at it.

After chatting with my friend Victoria about how well I was doing with my pre-loved clothing, we had the idea to open a shop together. She would take care of the business side, and I would be able to do what I love, buying and selling clothes and styling people!  

I love helping people to find their style, especially women who have lost their confidence, such as after having a baby or going through the menopause or are going to an event and want to feel special! As we are pre-loved we can provide affordable and sustainable options. Being styled by The Blind Stylist it a unique experience and I aim to make everyone feel confident beautiful and empowered.

I am now registered blind, but still have some peripheral vision. I don’t know how long this will last, but I am making the most out of each day and having a lot of fun along the way!

Personal experience with Vista

Since the very start of my sight loss journey Vista have tried to support as much as they can! From something as little as giving me advice on how to access help to coming out to my house to assess if there’s anything they can offer to help me with my daily routine. Vista supplied me with my symbol cane and other equipment that I’ve needed.”

“Never let sight loss hold you back!”

“After not being able to be a teacher and losing that dream, I began to head down a different passion of mine which is fashion. I found my love for it in pre-loved clothing and began working in charity shops.

My business partner Victoria helped me realise how I didn’t need to be scared of doing things that were maybe a little ambitious and may not progress, but instead to work out a business plan and don’t let the reason I’m not pursuing my dream be that I’m worried about my sight.

The shop is my greatest achievement and I love every day I spend there and in doing this hopefully I can inspire young people to still pursue their dreams. Never let sight loss hold you back!

"You will succeed"

When being told you’re losing your sight and you’re going to be blind one day, [it] is the scariest, loneliest feeling but I believe that this feeling should only be temporary and once you’ve processed the realisation of it, yes, it’s scary but you can still do anything you want to in life!

Things may be harder, things may take more time to do, or you may be too worried to step out of your comfort zone but as long as you have even just one person who wants to support and help you, you will succeed and you will be able to still live an incredible life in whatever way that is for you.”

If you'd like to find out more about how you can help Vista, or the support we provide, please visit our webpages and events for more information.

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