Is it better to design for the same few people or a diverse group of people, including those who live with disabilities? This question was the focus of a recent panel held by the Academy of Art University, where students were asked to challenge the status quo and reimagine their concepts of fashion design. People that live with disabilities face many challenges, including wearing conventionally designed clothing. The Academy of Art University is encouraging aspiring and seasoned fashion designers to explore inclusive design, designing fashion products for people from diverse groups.
The Academy of Art University is an art school in San Francisco with over 12,000 students. Founded in 1929 by Richard Stevens, the university is the largest privately-owned art and fashion school in the United States. The Academy of Arts offers undergraduate and graduate degrees and aims to provide a creative and supportive environment for students to explore their artistic ideas and build a portfolio.
During their panel, the Academy selected alumni that live with disabilities to be guest panelists and provide their unique perspectives. The guest panel included Chelsea Werner, a Special Olympics winner and fashion model with Down Syndrome. According to Chelsea, many designers are afraid to explore inclusive design. She urged designers to take a chance and see how the public responds. Stephanie Thomas, a dancer and designer born without thumbs and several toes, pointed out that one in five people live with a disability. Stephanie founded a company that promotes adaptable fashion for people with disabilities. Beau Oyler, a hemophiliac and fashion designer, believes in designing clothing with disabilities in mind to create products that will be enjoyable for people to wear. He also pointed out that recent advances in 3D printing technology have opened new doors for the fashion world, allowing highly customizable clothing and products for people with disabilities.
The recent panel urged designers to challenge conventional fashion notions and explore new avenues, creating inclusive fashion products designed with individuals from diverse groups in mind.