Fashion is cool and fun, bold and young.
You can see that just by walking into Reyes Witt’s classroom at Columbia College Chicago and looking at what her students are wearing. Sleeveless cowhide t-shirt on Adam Salame, 20. Off-the-shoulder black batwing shirt by Paige Burnby, 20. Black skirt worn as a dress with turtleneck on Sandra Walkowicz, 21. Madison Chain hot pink beret with sequin mini skirt and white knee-highs He wears high boots.
But fashion can be practical and fun, aimed at the elderly rather than children, as the name of the course, “Design Solutions for Fashion Design” and what the Witt students have spent the last 15 weeks: creating clothes for the elderly with limited mobility, or being in a wheelchair, wearing or wearing attractive underwear. Worn by people with physical problems who need help.
Students conceived their designs while learning to use new 3D software, then created prototype garments. Today, the top three designs are for Joe & Bella, a new Chicago company that designs and sells adaptive clothing for the elderly and disabled.
After the students are ready ie.
“Some people are still growing,” Witt said when class began.
In came Ben Graham, vice president of marketing at Joe & Bella.
“We pick one and pass it on to our design team to finalize,” he says. “Put it on our website and sell it.”
First up is a reversible unisex blue jacket with zip-off sleeves.
“We’ve had a few issues,” Salame said, pointing to an example of a seamstress dummy. We used this text that we discussed last time.
The pockets are moved to the front.
“Normally we think of the side pockets, but when you’re in a wheelchair, that’s not very accessible,” says Norma Espinoza, 20, who highlights with green earrings.
The second is beige sleepwear pants.
“Our focus here was easy access to the underserved,” said Faith Redeaux, 20, wearing a black vest and purple leather pants. “Both panels are completely gone.”
The elastic in the waist belt did not cooperate.
“We found out this weekend,” she said. “We were killing ourselves because of this.”
Finally, the plaid women’s skirt/poncho combination.
“This shows the evolution of our design process,” said Hugo Colin, 22, wearing a pompadour and denim jacket. “It’s easy for someone to put on. They can put this on their head, zip this up. Less hassle. It gives your customers more options.”
As the events unfold, Graham offers encouragement.
“All three hit it out of the park,” he says. “The path. This is really amazing. It’s not easy to choose a product to go forward.
He reminds the students that there is a lifestyle that is important to fashion design.
“What you are doing here is real,” he says. “It affects people in a significant way. Doing things to help other people live a simple life and to be good while doing it.”
Graham has nothing but praise for his students.
“They worked really hard,” he said later. “They listened very carefully. As professionals, they are able to take constructive criticism. They quickly recognized our mission.
That mission is to overcome consumer resistance to adaptive clothing for the elderly, making it more fashionable and popular, such as baby clothing or maternity clothing, which are types of adaptive clothing.
“We’re trying to normalize it,” Graham said. “Having a physical disability is very common. Aging is very normal. Let’s do something beautiful. Let’s celebrate these clothes.
Graham ultimately chooses a poncho/top combo, which should be up for pre-order within 60 days on the Joe & Bella website. Some of the proceeds go back to Columbia as scholarships.
The students had no trouble switching gears.
“When I design, I think a lot of glamor and glitz,” says Salame. “So it’s really interesting to go to this state and think about functionality rather than looks. It was all very interesting reverse fashion with creativity and adaptability.
“It’s really rewarding to know that we’re helping someone solve a real-life issue that they’re dealing with every day,” said Grace Gomez, 20, wearing a mocha knit dress and pearl-studded black stockings. “It’s something people don’t think about. We live in an affluent society, and people don’t think about how others need help.