Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Finding the fun in functional

Ben Graham, left, examines a jacket designed by Columbia College fashion students.

     Fashion is cool and fun, daring and young.
     You can see that just walking into Reyes Witt’s classroom at Columbia College Chicago and noticing what her students are wearing. The sleeveless cowl T-shirt on Adam Salame, 20. The off-the-shoulder black batwing blouse on Paige Bernby, 20. The black slip worn as a dress over a turtleneck on Sandra Walkowicz, 21. Not to overlook Madison Chain’s hot pink beret worn with a sequined miniskirt and white knee-high boots.
     But fashion can be functional as well as fun, geared toward seniors instead of kids, as evidenced by the course name, “Design Solutions for Fashion Design,” and by what Witt’s students have been up to for the last 15 weeks: creating clothing to be worn by those facing physical challenges, such as the mobility limitations of the elderly, or being in a wheelchair, wearing absorbent undergarments or requiring help to dress.
     Students conceived their designs while learning to use new 3D design software, then created prototype garments. Today the top three designs are being presented to Joe & Bella, a new Chicago company that designs and sells adaptive apparel for seniors and people with disabilities.
     Once the students are ready, that is.
     “Some people are still sewing,” says Witt, as the class begins.
     Ben Graham, vice president of marketing at Joe & Bella, arrives.
     “We’re going to pick one, pass it on to our design team to finish it,” he says. “Put it up on our website and sell it.”
     First up is a convertible unisex blue jacket with zip-off sleeves.
     “We had a few issues,” says Salame, pointing to the prototype on a seamstress dummy. “We used this material that we discussed last time.”

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  1. Thank you for todays column. Retired and Freed from dressing for daily work, I am able to dress with more color comfort, color and style. As I age, who knows what may happen. To see this class doing to help people so they do not have to look bland and grim is inspiring, especially as we see the pain and hatred that are currently a large part of so much else in the world.

  2. Shining a light into another hidden corner of human experience. My tiny exposure to standard seamstressing makes me aware of how difficult and tricky it is to put together a garment to comfortably fit anyone. That making it happen for people with disabilities is even harder doesn't surprise me. By the way, pockets in the front of a jacket might be the thing to get someone who never gets out of the car.



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