Project Integrate is a seven design collection created in collaboration with AARP and Open Style Lab to seamlessly accommodate women of diverse bodies and backgrounds through garment adjustability. This closureless line allows people with limited grip capabilities a simple and stylish alternative when getting dressed. It also features thermochromic, or color changing, prints that activate at high temperatures to visually alert the paralyzed or nonverbal of contact with extreme heat.
The focus of Project Integrate is not to put a spotlight on inclusive design and create garments specifically for the disabled; rather, it is a showcase of my personal design aesthetic created in a universally accessible way, so that a broader audience is able to wear and appreciate it. From the past to the present, clothes have become easier and easier to don and doff. Take, for example, Victorian era corsets, petticoats, and boots. The multitude of buttons alone made it difficult for even non-handicapped persons to wear. While there has since been an increase in disability awareness and design, I believe there is still more to improve in terms of bulk and aesthetic in order to fully incorporate accessible design in everyday clothing.
My mentors, sponsored by AARP, are Tonya Capers, Christina Mallon, and Madeline DeAddio. Tonya is a 42 year old New York based graphic designer with Transverse Myelitis (TM). TM is a condition that causes inflammation of the tissue surrounding nerve cell fibers in the spine, called myelin. For Tonya, this caused paralysis from the waist below. Due to the limited sensation in her legs, she inspired my design for thermochromic prints as a temperature indicating system. Madeline DeAddio currently mentors newly injured spinal cord patients, advocates for the disabled community, and often engages in adaptive sports alongside Tonya. She has a C5-C6 incomplete spinal cord injury from the age of 23 that caused paraplegia - paralysis and limited grip capabilities, inspired the closureless feature of my design. While she is able to put on and take off jackets and such with ease, she is unable to button her clothes and has trouble with open zippers closures. Christina Mallon is currently the head of Inclusive Design and Accessibility at Wunderman Thompson Global and is a partner and board Member of OSL. She was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 22, which left both of her arms paralyzed. She and Madeline inspired my closureless wrap design due to their low dexterity.