Every day, we get dressed: pull on our jeans, button our shirts, tie our shoes. For some of us, it’s not something we think about very deeply, but for others, the daily task of putting clothes on presents challenges that are unique to them. Chelsea Funk of Columbus, Ohio seeks to bring inclusive fashion to differently-abled kids through Pit and Pug Adaptive, and it’s a project that is changing lives.
Chelsea knows what it’s like to feel like clothes never really fit right; she was born with amniotic band syndrome and is without part of her left arm. She specifically recalled having a hard time finding winter clothes that fit.
However, this simply inspired Chelsea. She knew she wanted to help people full-time, and she had learned to sew from a mentor. Thus, she decided to give fashion a try. In the fall of 2014, Chelsea was accepted to the Columbus College of Art and Design, where she discovered just how much she loved fashion class.
“Words can’t describe how at home I felt,” she said. When senior year came, Chelsea decided that her thesis would be adaptive children’s clothing. It was a year-long project, one that she found she “didn’t want to be done” with.
Chelsea’s thesis included a fashion show, but she needed kids to model her collection.
“Finding people who were willing to participate was the hardest part,” she said. Her models were all children with different abilities from Ohio, and it took her six months to find the first model. Being a part of the show was a huge parental time commitment, and people sometimes weren’t open to the help Chelsea wanted to provide.
Once she found her models, Chelsea found that it was difficult to ask questions about the disabilities the children had, whether they be about clothing, their daily struggles, or an ongoing condition or diagnosis. It’s never an easy conversation to have.
But these challenges came with great reward. Chelsea said that “the look on the kids’ faces in their outfits” and watching them having so much fun on the runway made the whole process worth it.
Every child that modeled for Chelsea had a unique story, and she heard the challenges that each child and parent faced. However, Chelsea particularly connected with a four-year-old girl who also had amniotic band syndrome. Chelsea felt that she had a great opportunity to help her because she has lived the same reality. She taught her how to tie her shoes and button shirts, but her mom would wonder if her daughter would ever be able to do these tasks. Chelsea was able to impart knowledge that she learned from her mother to the next generation of parents that yes, her daughter can and she will.
Although Pit and Pug Adaptive is not Chelsea’s full-time job, she is working on a small winter collection, and she seeks to promote acceptance through her brand. She makes custom pieces from her home, and the timeline for a garment depends on how adaptive the piece needs to be. For example, replacing buttons with magnets would take about a week, while a full winter coat would take around three weeks.
Chelsea believes that every child deserves cute clothing and find that the industry needs to be more inclusive. She also discovered this when she was searching for models; the industry doesn’t really employ different.
“I just want people to open their eyes and see that different is beautiful,” she said. Pit and Pug Adaptive seeks to spread the word about adaptive fashion as well, as it isn’t necessarily mainstream knowledge.
As Chelsea’s journey to make clothing accessible for all continues, she wouldn’t change a thing about it so far. She feels very fortunate, and she takes every day as a learning experience. Having a side hustle is hard, though. Chelsea is currently try to secure job after interning at a company for 10 weeks, and when she gets home at 6:30 p.m., she wants to spend time with her dogs, partner and hustle. It’s a balance, no doubt.
In the near future, Chelsea hopes to get Pit and Pug Adaptive a website that would allow customers to order pieces as well as improving social media and email. In the next few years, she wants to expand Pit and Pug, create a business model and work toward investments in the brand. Down the road, she would love to open a store that would offer the full experience of shopping for garments. Her ultimate dream would be having Pit and Pug Adaptive become a nationwide, or even worldwide, brand.
Chelsea’s favorite quote embodies her mission: “Fashion should be an inclusive experience for all.” She saw it on the Open Style Lab’s LinkedIn, and it precisely sums up how she feels the world of fashion should be.
Author: Sam Raudins
Author Bio: Sam is a journalism major at Ohio State who lives for football and good iced chai lattes. She is an intern at Harness, Social Media Editor at The Lantern and Senior Editor at Her Campus Ohio State. In the past, Sam has created her own blog and developed a football column at Her Campus called “Femme Football.”
Link to social media or website: http://theinternalmonologue.weebly.com | Instagram @sgr3| Twitter @sam_raudins