Changing the World, One Design at a Time 11

O’More College students are using their education to help others.

Every year around this time, O’More College of Design students are immersed in preparations for the college’s spring Fashion Show. At the event on May 12, junior and senior students will showcase the hard work they’ve put in throughout the year, as is tradition. But this year, the Fashion Show will be a bit different—and even more meaningful.

The 2017 Fashion Show will focus on using fashion design to make a positive impact on the world. Students are creating clothing within the parameters of three different design “challenges,” one of which is designing a custom outfit for a child with Down syndrome.

“We’re challenging our students to apply the design thinking process to help individuals who are often forgotten by fashion,” said Jamie Atlas, Chair of Fashion at O’More. They’ll have their very own outfit, designed to their specific taste and needs. The children will model their custom-made-with-love outfit in the O’More Fashion Show, and then will get to keep the clothing. In terms of design and style, these children will be forgotten no more, thanks to O’More students’ creativity.

In a unique relationship with Gigi’s Playhouse, a nationwide Down syndrome achievement center, 11 O’More students have been paired with 11 local children who have Down syndrome. The students met their child for the first time at the Nashville location of Gigi’s Playhouse in late March. Laughter and excitement were plentiful as the students and children hugged, played, and talked together. Each student also spent time with their child’s parents to get an idea of their child’s fashion preferences and unique needs in an outfit.

The children were, of course, excited for the opportunity to dress up. But, the students were just as overjoyed to have a new and slightly unconventional design opportunity.

Macy Harmon, a Fashion Design major in her junior year at O’More, was paired with Emmaline, an energetic young lady who loves to be the star of any room, and can’t wait to walk the runway. “Normally, we’re just designing something to fit a model form,” Harmon said, “but this particular piece will be just for Emmaline—it’s not made for anybody else.” Harmon plans to incorporate plenty of Emmaline’s favorite color—purple—into her custom outfit, along with “hopefully some wrinkle-free fabric” to withstand Emmaline’s playful, active demeanor.

Parents are also grateful for the love and care being shown to their children by O’More and its students. Ruth McCall has brought her 7-year-old son, Jonah, to Gigi’s Playhouse since it opened its Nashville location in 2013. Gigi’s Playhouse has been a blessing to her family, and has provided Jonah with valuable life skills over the years through classes and activities tailored for children with Down syndrome.

McCall says her son is learning how to fasten buttons and zippers in occupational therapy, and she’s glad that he will have an outfit customized to his own motor skills and unique abilities through this partnership with O’More.

“Children with Down syndrome are often overlooked,” she said, adding that these children bring such joy into the world, “but O’More is saying, ‘they are worth our time,’ and I’m so happy that someone is celebrating their uniqueness and all that they bring to life.”