Function the key to fashion

Published: August 12, 2011  |  Source: qt.com.au
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COL Mackereth has held a number of roles in his time, but never as a model – up until now.

The 51-year-old is part of a Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE (MSIT) project which challenges second-year fashion design students to create 24 fashion pieces for six people who have a physical disability, including the Fernvale resident.

MSIT and the Spinal Injuries Association have partnered for the unique project to create clothing and accessories that are fashionable and functional.

After creating their designs, the students will present their pieces to an industry panel of designers and Spinal Injuries Association representatives, in September.

As the senior co-ordinator of the Spinal Injuries Association’s peer support team, Mr Mackereth said the idea for the project began after University of Sydney honours student Imogen Howe published a survey report that investigated clothing options for people with spinal cord injuries.

The survey summarised what members of the association already knew – that there were limited options when it came to finding clothing that was eye-catching and practical.

Mr Mackereth said when he was recovering from sustaining quadriplegia, he thought he was destined for a lifetime of ‘tracky daks’ and baggy t-shirts.

“Coming to terms with your injury is hard enough, but to also be told that you could no longer wear the clothes you liked was hugely upsetting and disempowering – you feel even less like other people,” Mr Mackereth said.

Students recently met with their models to begin to understand the many complexities of using a wheelchair and how this could impact on fashion choices.

“For example, because people with spinal cord injuries no longer have abdominal muscles that work, they’re often keen to camouflage their stomach by buying larger sizes, which often results in clothes that swamp the body,” Mr Mackereth said.

MSIT fashion education manager Liz Reynolds said the project was a great opportunity for students to learn about the needs of clients whose garments were designed and constructed with particular specifications in mind.