Paralympian creates ‘fashion-able’ clothes

Published: July 19, 2007  |  Source:

Teri Thorson
Teri Thorson
Teri Thorson doesn’t think people in wheelchairs should have to choose between fashion and function.

The former Paralympian wheelchair racer is launching her own line of stylish and comfortable clothing for people in wheelchairs.

“Since I’ve been in a chair, I’ve struggled to find clothing that fits me properly and still looks good,” she said.

The Victoria resident suffered a spinal cord injury in a car crash in 1996. Only 24 years old, Thorson was vacationing in the outback of Australia and spent two months in acute care there before she returned to Vancouver. It would take her another nine months at GF Strong Rehabilitation to recover strength in her arms.

Thorson, who didn’t consider herself athletic before the injury, wasn’t initially interested in joining “disabled sports.”

“It was the enthusiasm and support of my peers that got me into a race chair and I just instantly felt connected to it.”

She tried kayaking, skiing and rugby, but when she sat in her first race chair in 2001, Thorson found her passion.

In 2002, she returned to Australia to train for the 2004 Paralympic Games, where she made the 400- metre race finals.

While she would like to continue racing, a wrist injury has largely shattered her hopes of competing in Beijing in 2008.

“It could just be overuse, but I didn’t want to mess up the rest of my life of being independent, so I’ve taken this break and I’m just going to focus on this next dream.”

Since high school, Thorson has wanted to be a fashion designer, but the lure of a lucrative career in software engineering got the better of her in college.

With time on her hands, she’s now ready for the next challenge.

Thorson has put together several designs and is looking to work with a seamstress to make the designs come to life.

People in wheelchairs have different needs, she said.

Low rise pants show too much in the back and rise too high in the leg. Also, underused muscles can Atrophy – so a thicker cloth or denim that has a bit of stretch is preferable.

Thorson intends to focus on designing casual clothes for women, but eventually would like to expand to include evening wear and men’s clothes.

Her line will be called “Normal?”

“I always think, ‘what is normal?’ When I first got hurt, all I wanted to do was be normal again, and upon living as a person in a chair and accomplishing more than I have before my injury, I thought this is my normalcy. There are many people out there who don’t have a physical Disability but are living with some kind of trauma in their own lives, so what is ‘normal’?”

Thorson, who also serves as a Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion Ambassador, plans on launching her line this fall.

By Andrea Lavigne
News staff