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Parsons and Special Olympics Working to Create Sustainable Change in Inclusive Apparel

Renderings of jacket and shorts uniform for a male athlete named Sean.
Parson’s students and Special Olympics athletes design uniforms together, like Jessica Tan did in the example above.

“Together with Special Olympics, we co-created, designed and established a collab class with an intricate co-design, human-centered systems-thinking and partnership methodology.”
Brendan McCarthy, Systems and Materiality BFA Program Director at Parsons, told Mission.

Special Olympics and The New School's Parsons School of Design have been collaborating to offer design students a chance to work with Special Olympics athletes in creating sportswear that work in style and function for people with intellectual disabilities. The classwork that ended in May 2021 was reviewed by the athletes, fashion photographer Nigel Barker and WTA (Women Tennis Association) players who’ve been involved with some of the classes this semester.

The collaboration is getting attention as more and more fashion houses are embracing adaptive wear for people of all abilities. This semester’s final was covered by several media outlets.

WWD published an article titled Parsons and the Special Olympics Working to Create Sustainable Change in Inclusive Apparel in which they stated:

As part of its ongoing partnership with the Special Olympics, The New School’s Parsons School of Design showcased some of the creations students have designed for the athletes as part of the “Special Olympics x Parsons School of Fashion Inclusive Design Collaboration.” Athletes, students, faculty, special guests like Nigel Barker and representatives from the Women’s Tennis Association joined a 135-minute Zoom call to discuss the way forward for more representative design.

This follow is an excerpt of the article titled Is Adaptive Activewear Finally Getting Its Due? published by Mission Magazine.

Now fashion’s future generation will have a hand in adaptive clothing, as Parsons School of Design and the Special Olympics have paired up on a long term initiative to not only design adaptive activewear collections, but also to understand where the industry is headed in terms of this type of inclusion. “Together with Special Olympics, we co-created, designed and established a collab class with an intricate co-design, human-centered systems-thinking and partnership methodology,” Brendan McCarthy, Systems and Materiality BFA Program Director at Parsons, told Mission. “It can be used as a model for fashion and athletic/performance design houses, businesses more broadly and educational institutions to re-think how they approach critical issues around equity, inclusion, social justice, specifically for one of the most marginalized communities, those with intellectual disabilities.”

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