To shine a spotlight on the need for adaptive fashion design, the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Society has teamed up with the nonprofit Open Style Lab to develop a runway show called Double Take. The show takes place on February 8 at 10 at 608 Fifth Avenue in New York.
SMA is a progressive neuromuscular disease that can impair walking, dexterity and general strength, making clothing with certain fastenings, cuts, fits and weights unavailable.
Double Take is the first fashion show with SMA community engagement from start to finish, from conceptualizing the message to collaborating on clothing design, to walking and rolling the runway leading up to New York Fashion Week, and is dedicated to anyone living with a disability. .
The show looks to enable disabled people to occupy a space that is often closed off to them, and the SMA community invites the world to do a “double take”, not because of their disabilities, but because of their style and individuality .
Prior to the show, Open Style Lab adaptive fashion design fellows, some of whom have disabilities themselves, worked with SMA community members to create and modify garments, according to each runway contestant’s personal style and needs. The garments have hidden magnetic closures to create the look of buttons without the challenge of attaching them. There are also stretch knit panels instead of zippers, flexible sleeves for easier wheelchair operation and other customizations.
Support for Double Take was provided by biotechnology company Genetech’s SMA My Way program, which is an initiative that aims to support people affected by SMA by sharing their experiences and building connections in the community. Genetech, which discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious and life-threatening medical conditions, is a member of the Roche Group, headquartered in South San Francisco, California.
“Thanks to the support of Genetech, Double Take gave me the opportunity to explore forward-thinking fashion design that includes people of all abilities. I collaborated with several people living with spinal muscular atrophy to create accessible garments that fit both their personalities and their individual needs, including Shane Burcaw, who has SMA and uses an electric wheelchair. To customize a purple velvet suit for Shane, I added an invisible zipper to the back of the jacket, for easier dressing, and stretch panels at the elbows to accommodate bending. Matching tailored velvet trousers had two layers – a comfortable L-shaped base and a replaceable cover that goes on top,” said Andrea Saleh, Open Style Lab 2022 Fellow for Double Take.
“For a person with spinal muscular atrophy, who sits all the time, suit jackets can be difficult to put on and clunky, very unsexy. We ended up having a suit tailored for our wedding and it looked amazing, but it was still difficult to come up with. For the Double Take project, which was sponsored by Genetech, we worked with adaptive fashion designers to create a suit that not only looked great, but was also comfortable and much easier to wear. Ultimately Double Take is about celebrating differences, not trying to erase them. Fashion allows you to do that – to embrace the things that make you different,” said Shane Burcaw, who will be modeling on the runway with his wife, Hannah.