Functional Fashion

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Style and function should go hand in hand.

It’s a horrible combination to have an ugly garment with brilliant functionality and similarly, something beautiful but inconvenient. Lucy Jones is a young fashion designer from Wales. At Parsons School of Design in New York, Jones’ teacher told her to ‘design something that will change the world.’ So she created a design that everyone would love but that could bring about a transformation in fashion.

When Lucy was a child she used to play dress up. She says

You can put on a different outfit, you can feel a different emotion and identity. This is something everyone does. I decided to go into fashion because I find that so fascinating. I love the design ethic and work ethic that New York city has itself.

She chose to study at Parsons because it is the school which designs with integrity and includes social innovations and sustainability.

Lucy’s inspiration for her thesis came from her cousin Jake, who has hemiplegia. He told her that he wished that he could dress himself and then it became her mission to design with disability in mind. Her ultimate career goal is to be involved in a movement that will change fashion to bring awareness to designing for people who have disabilities.

Her collection is called ‘Seated Design’, and it’s a method of including disabilities in the design process. Her first focus is with individuals who sit down for a long portion of the day. She conducted focus groups and interviewed disabled people and talked to them about the fitting of their clothes, with the help of United Cerebral Palsy in Manhattan and Brooklyn. She said that ‘everyone was telling me they just didn’t feel considered in fashion and they just had to make do.’

No disabilities are the same, impaired motion in hand, arm, or leg can cause a problem while wearing a shirt or trousers. Lucy wanted to figure out a way to re-engineer garments to make them easier for disabled and wheelchair-bound people. Not only make them more functional but more attractive as well.

People have different positions when they sit or stand. Their bodies are shaped differently. Jones designed patterns to cover bent knees and elbows and she designed sleeves that expand like an accordion to allow more freedom of movement without bunching fabric. She wanted the clothes to look more polished and tailored.

For a better understanding of how exactly to create these designs she worked with Ronnie, who had limited mobility and multiple sclerosis. ‘If Ronnie’s going to a restaurant and someone wants to take her jacket off, you don’t want it to be embarrassing for both of them,’ says Jones. ‘When you see a familiar thing like a zipper, you just know you have to undo it. It’s not alienating, it’s familiar.’ Jones met with Ronnie twice a week for fittings and feedback. Ronnie was part of her video which showed her collection and this video opened the student runway show at the Parson Benefit.

As other designers have petite and maternity collections in their brands, Jones wants to create a section for the disabled. She wants to collaborate with other brands to initiate this inclusion.

On being named as the Designer of the year in 2015, at one of the best Design Schools – she felt phenomenal. The award was presented to her by one of the alumni of Parsons, Marc Jocobs, ‘I haven’t got over it and don’t think I ever will but it made me more confident in believing in myself and helping others.’ She has made it to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for her unique ‘Seated Design’ collection. Alongside Blaire Moore, she won the title of ‘Empowering Imagination’ sponsored by Parsons and Kering. She has also received a $2,500 grant from The New School’s social innovation to continue her Seated Design collection.

Lucy’s brand FFORA is a lifestyle brand to serve the disabled community. Their main aim is to design functional and attractive products. They are collaborating and co-designing with people who have disabilities. They want to all together design products which provide ease of accessibility and freedom of choice to the people.

When talking about what she really wants with her design and why ‘Seated Design’ is so important, Jones said:

I want there to be more sharing and collaboration on this matter. I hope that my work has given a foundation for others to work with. I made many mistakes and had very many trials and errors in order to get where I am now, so my belief is that if I provide this information, people could take inspiration and expand on my existing work, rather than everyone having to start from scratch if they want to design with this mind-set. It should be collaboration.

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