Panelists from Academy of Art University Discuss Clothing Design for Disabled Community

In April, the Academy of Art University held its annual event – the Graduation Fashion Show and Awards Ceremony. The invitation-only event included an honorary doctorate to famed New York-based fashion designer, Andre Walker, among other note-worthy recipients.

The Academy of Art University event was moderated by Assistant Director of Fashion Styling, Flore Morton, who also posed challenging questions to a panel of students and attendees. Those questions were based on whether a good design is determined by accommodating a few people or does it mean designing for various types of people, including those with disabilities.

For most of society, clothing design can be taken for granted; however, for anyone dealing with a disability, there can often be everyday challenges and struggles. Typically, someone who is confined to a wheelchair, or using assistance to walk, will find it cumbersome to navigate certain clothing designs, such as studs, zippers or buttons. Often times, those elements can also cause skin irritations due to a person needing to sit for long lengths of time. The Academy of Art University was established in 1929, and there are over 30 accredited degree programs. In addition, the University offers continuing art education, pre-college art programs, teacher grants, as well as continuing education for professional development. Students are prepared for understanding the needs of today’s business environment.

The open panel discussed topics relating to needing “inclusive” fashion design, in addition to insightful ideas to integrate those changes. The Academy of Art University event was useful for engaging many types of interesting ways to serve those who are managing “mainstream” fashion with their disability. The intent was not to bring an A-list type of clothing design but to cater to a segment of the population that is often over-looked when fashion is designed. The panelist saw the opportunity as a way to take responsibility to seek alternatives and find opportunities to proactively design clothing that will enhance the life of someone dealing with a disability. The Academy of Art University typically has more than 12,000 students enrolled in its programs. Each year, a select number of students are transported by bus from San Fransico to New York in order to attend “Fashion Week” as a learning experience.

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