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Designer mixes fashion with technology to help disabled children

NewsCampus NewsDesigner mixes fashion with technology to help disabled children

05/07 Synergy Fashion Show
Morgan Brownell/THE REVIEW
Fashion Designer Martha Hall gave a speech to students encouraging them to explore options aside from “designing for glamor”


For the grand finale of the university’s fashion week, Martha Hall, a fashion designer and a researcher in functional design, gave a speech on Friday about interdisciplinary context for fashion and how the mixture is applied to help children with disabilities.

The speech, entitled “Thinking Outside the Box: Careers in Fashion Beyond the Runway,” strayed from the traditional concept of fashion design and focused on exploring alternate career paths.

Hall said that many students who major in fashion ideally think about working in a glamorous environment, such as designing for fashion week or working with celebrities.

“But it’s one [path]. And it’s a very narrow one,” Hall said. “It’s one where everybody else who graduates with you is on the same path. And you are all working toward the same thing.”

However, Hall said designers have more to offer than designing for glamor. According to Hall, designers understand aesthetics, working with people, drivers of the market, and creative approaches to problem solving.

“If you think about your career as fashion and whatever other discipline, you can look at things from outside the box in a way that can take you anywhere. It’s only limited by your imagination,” Hall said.

Hall enlightened students about the opportunities to explore aesthetics within healthcare. She mentioned companies that design fashionable wearables for patients with lymphedema, or children with autism.

Sophomore Loanne Ng said that fashion’s potential collaboration with healthcare surprised her.

“I’ve never thought about that. But I think it’s really important especially with health. People normally don’t think about how fashion and health go together,” said Ng. “There are a lot of people I know who have disabilities and I think it’s really awesome that this is becoming more of a thing. This definitely opened my eyes more.”

As a lead designer for the “Move To Learn” innovation lab at the university, Hall and her coworkers focus on helping children with disabilities, mostly those with upper limb impairment, move and play better in their clothing.

Hall explained her involvement with the lab as a “calling.” She thinks of her work not just as fashion but fashion that helps people move. Her clothing is not only fashionable, but also serves as a treatment device for children, helping them to lift and support their impaired arms.

Senior Kacie Schmeck said the talk about how fashion gets involved in helping people’s lives was informative and inspiring. She said that as a fashion major, she doesn’t get to see how fashion collaborates with other fields in her classes, but was glad that the lecture touched on the subject.

Michele Lobo, co-director of the “Move To Learn” lab, assistant professor in physical therapy and the organizer of the speech, thinks interdisciplinary fashion has a promising future at the university.

“UD has become a leader in interdisciplinary research involving fashion and more traditional science fields,” Lobo stated in an email message. “Advances in textile science right here at UD are creating a whole new field of Functional Fashions for Healthy Living.”

Hall’s speech focused on inspiring student to think about different approaches they can take with design careers.

“I’m hopeful that I have planted a seed with students,” Hall said. “It’s more thinking about their options, and they have so many options that they may not think about or know about.”




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