San Francisco

San Francisco State University Students to Showcase Clothes for People With Disabilities

Gene Chelberg has impeccable taste in fashion, and favors suits and striking ties.

Chelberg, however, is blind and his trusty service dog is trained, for safety reasons, to circumvent overhanging roofs, awnings and ledges. So when it rains, the pair often gets soaked.

Hearing of Chelberg’s experience spurred Kinsey Thomas and Erin Fuller, two design students at San Francisco State University, into action. Chelberg is the school’s Associate Vice President for Student Affairs.

For Runway 2017: Unforeseen, a fashion show hosted by students majoring in apparel design and fashion merchandising, Thomas and Fuller created a detachable, waterproof hood to go with one of Chelberg’s trenchcoats. The pair also ensured that the hood’s material matches the coat’s beige fabric and has magnets on its collar so it can clasp itself.

“I believe that fashion, and what people wear is very personal,” said Thomas, 20, of San Francisco. “In order to get what the clients wanted, we had to ask personal questions and for many student designers, they found themselves informed of stigmas within disabilities – whether they be visible or invisible disabilities – and how they can be prevented.”

Thursday marks SFSU’s 23rd annnual fashion show and nearly 90 students are involved in the event in different capacities. Many are on the cusp of graduating.

“As students look out in their future, with what’s going on in the world, it is unforeseen for them,” said Constance Ulasewicz, who chairs the Consumer & Family Studies/Dietetics Department.

One of the segments of the show involves clothes created for people with disabilities. About 20 student designers partnered with amputees, blind people, some who struggle with post-traumatic stress and others who are in wheelchairs.

The goal is to be “inclusive” and encourage students to create clothes that would help people “embrace or enhance their disabilities,” Ulasewicz said.

Another part of the show focuses on sustainability and reusing garments. Students worked with the university’s bookstore, which collected damaged or town clothing through the year. The scraps were redesigned into other items of clothing.

“I created a 60s inspired dress out of old T-shirt jerseys as well as SF emblems and am very excited to show the sustainable garment to the Unforeseen audience,” Thomas said.

The final section of the fashion show will feature 18 senior design students displaying a collection of clothing that's oriented around a theme of their choosing.

For her part, Ulasewicz said she is excited by the chance to “promote the idea that clothing is a non-verbal language that’s part of our identity.”

The show will be hosted at the SFSU Annex 1 at 1 North State Drive. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show will begin at 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets cost $30 and students can enter for $10. For more information, visit with a valid SFSU ID. More information can be found online.

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