Meet Be Brave, an inclusive athletics line. Originally, when I started doing interviews for this piece, it was clear to me that the original reach through the prism of careers was too short-sighted. Be Brave goes further than that for a more inclusive society, weaving the threads of the community of athletes interacting with designers for functional and stylish clothing, which resonates beyond the fabric where everyone wins.
Special Olympics and students of the New Schools Parsons School of Design recently partnered to conceptualize, design and develop both stylish and functional tennis and athletic outfits for people with intellectual disabilities. The students worked with teachers, athletes, a fashion photographer and Special Olympics Champion Ambassador Nigel Barker.
From a career perspective, students have learned the functionality by communicating frequently with athletes, but ultimately this partnership goes beyond.
Inclusive athletics line Be Brave debuted a few days ago during New York Fashion Week celebrating people with disabilities and giving talented Special Olympics athletes a way to look and perform at their best. of themselves. (The collection has been reviewed and supported by players of the Women Tennis Association.)
Liza Ambrosini, Special Olympics New York athlete in tennis and alpine skiing won 19 gold, 11 silver and two bronze. I loved being part of the class. I enjoyed answering the designers’ questions and participating in the designs they made. The designs are awesome!
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During the pandemic, athletes and students communicated via email and Zoom, and Ambrosini said some tennis clothing is uncomfortable. Whether an athlete has a disability or not, sportswear should be functional. Tennis clothing should have pockets to hold tennis balls, for example. They should not be too tight. But they should still be in fashion. Athletes want to look and be able to play like a champion!
Dana Kosber, a fashion design student at Parsons, enrolled in The Collection x Systems Design Studio x Specialized Studio course in collaboration with Special Olympics and Nigel Barker to challenge me to create individual and tailored garments that could serve a community.
Kosber designed a sky blue, black and white two-tier sleeveless sports dress for Liza Ambrosini, a Special Olympics tennis athlete.
It was great to create and design with deliberate intention, said Kosber who performed fitness testing on the garment for durability during its design. Work with and get to know Liza Ambrosini and Melanie Grassi [Special Olympics New York tennis athletes] was the best part of the design process. The design was driven primarily by what they needed, their preferences and personal playing styles.
Communication was constant throughout the process, so the end result, Kosber said, was very personal to flesh out their preferences for design ideas, sketches and possibly clothing. I felt it was a community effort.
Kosber balanced art with functionality using a microfiber sports jersey and a blend of spandex. From the feel of the fabric moving when running on the court, to the feeling of a tightening / loosening of a dress around the waist as it spins to swing the racquet, it allowed me to factor in the ergonomic quality. that athletes demand clothing and the iterative / analytical process. process it takes to get there. Additionally, it had a huge impact on my collaborative design skills to create a garment that fully embodies an individual’s needs and preferences.
Kosber credited Barker for his in-depth and insightful mentorship, criticism, and advice on his designs. He really encouraged me to find my voice in design and to find what we could personally offer athletes. It made me think introspectively and tap into my own experiences and strengths to create the most personalized project possible, while also reminding me of the importance of design inclusiveness.
Through virtual recordings, Barker offered personalized advice to create sustainable and inclusive clothing for athletes to wear before, after and during competitions.
Barker said: Every time I got those calls, 20, 30 people, the athletes were there, the designers were there, questions come and go, really listen to what the athletes have to say. Athletes have opinions about what they want and what they need. It’s like hearing them for the first time when it comes to designing clothes. When it comes to fashion design, we haven’t been inclusive and diverse at all. And obviously in sportswear, functional and technical, it is crucial.
This is the real essence of inclusion. You have the leaders in every field coming together for everyone and that’s what makes it so unique and special. Nigel barker
Barker said of the current program, Everyone was enthusiastic. It gave everyone a boost of positivity during difficult times and such creativity came out of it. The athletes were in heaven, as with any layman who sees something created and designed. From a designers’ point of view, I also think there is a level of collaboration that they didn’t expect where they can expand the offer and the variety of types of designs they could do. From a business perspective, it’s great for designers to understand that there is a whole different market. When you design for everyone, you also create a better scenario for yourself as a designer. It’s super exciting for everyone involved. It’s a dream come true and it’s just beginning.
This dream goes beyond Be Brave. Everyone has a great story about Special Olympics or working in it and they all want to help, everyone wants to be involved and that is incredibly rewarding to me and also shows that real change is possible, has said Barker. Were trying to make it not be a conversation because the first time it’s a conversation. Essentially, that won’t be when we reach true inclusion. What we were aiming for is true inclusion, so it’s happening all the time.
Special Olympics began in 1968 as a summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities and today it’s a global movement. Kelli Seely, Director of Marketing, Development and Communications, Special Olympics International, hopes this collaboration will continue to expand globally and into the fashion industry.
Seely said, This initiative is a direct legacy of our founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. She was a pioneer in the global struggle for the rights and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities. The collaboration of the Parsons School of Design and Special Olympics is an example of how Special Olympics athletes, and all people with intellectual disabilities, are in many ways the teachers in the ever-changing global market for today, challenging the world to be more inclusive in all aspects. of life.
For Shrivers’ granddaughter, Special Olympics Founders Council member Christina Schwarzenegger and Parsons alumnus, this initiative punctuates learning. You really learn when you choose to step out of what you know and expand your perspectives, you can learn something new from others like with ID. We can all learn something from each other and this is another example of when you choose to be inclusive and learn to understand their gifts and a more inclusive world, which is more important than ever.
Also, said Schwarzenegger, it changes the way we view these intellectual disabilities. Now we can regard them as a rich source of knowledge, expanding our awareness by simply showing their importance for society, importance for human relationships, to learn more about them, to learn more about each other, but c that is what it is. Challenge other stereotypes and show each of us what all of us were capable of.
This is something Kosber will not soon forget. By creating sportswear, I gained a broader knowledge of kinesthetic anatomy, especially the body in motion. The process helped me maneuver the fabric and silhouette for an active body and helped me create an informed design for a dynamic garment. Most importantly, I’ve learned to adaptively and inclusively design and continue to create fashion that can serve a larger purpose.
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