Open a fashion magazine, and among the amazing contortions performed by the models, one pose will most likely be absent: sitting. Clothes tend to be designed and tailored for the standing, able body, leaving people with several disabilities in the cold. However, Open Style Lab has been taking an opposite approach to fashion, designing garments around an individuals needs. Their flagship product, the Rayn Jacket has featured previously on bespoken. Engineer Alex Peacock gave some insights into the design process and the Rayn jacket's future.

To form the teams, Open Style Lab gave overview presentations on possible clients to their talent pool, and matched up them up according to their indicated interest levels. The team then had a long talk with Ryan at his house, where he briefed them on his needs. The Rayn jacket team consisted of Alex and June Kim, who have diverse engineering backgrounds, Kira Bender, an occupational therapist, and most importantly the client, Ryan DeRoche. Ryan has an incomplete spinal cord fracture, resulting in disrupted sensation below his injury. This means that he has difficulty in regulating his temperature, and sweats below his injury: as well as being uncomfortable, this creates a risk of hypothermia. On top of this, the disrupted sensation can be painful: rain falling on his skin feels like needles. Since putting on a normal jacket could take up to five minutes with help, he tended to err on the side of being cold. He needed a waterproof jacket which completely protected him, which could be easily put on with or without a caregiver. And nothing too fancy: Ryan is a self-described "hoodie guy" and preferred a jacket which fit in with his casual style. The team initally considered making gloves, based on his thermoregulation needs, but finally decided to design a jacket. The Rayn Jacket's killer feature was discovered serendipitously: a flap which folds down over the knees to protect the lower body while sitting, and tucks away neatly when standing.

"Initially we started designing gloves, and then we started thinking about a jacket. We figured the jacket would be more beneficial for him. How can we incorporate warming his hands? This led to the lap flap. The pouch pocket in front, for his arm mobility is in a really bad position because he can't get his arms all the way back to put them into the pockets, so we were looking at how he can better use those pockets 'All right, let's move this pocket around so that it can open,' and then all of a sudden we were like 'Oh my gosh! It can fold out and keep his legs dry!' It's one of those things that came out of another thing."

"The process actually went really smoothly. We would meet with Ryan every now and again and he would tell us what he liked and what he didn't like, we would then tweak it to those specifications."

For this type of work, having an OT on their team was essential: "Having an occupational therapist was huge. Because for me, as designer, I can sit and listen, and try and think of some innovative ways but I don't know everything. I would have to get online and research, and spend all my time and go down millions of rabbit holes, trying to understand everything, and all the issues they face, but having an OT along with it, made it so easy. She could just talk with him and relate with him, in so many
ways that myself as an engineer and a designer couldn't. She just knew more. So her input was amazing."

How does Alex feel about their project's success? "I was surprised that the Rayn Jacket went as far as it did in such a short amount of time. I think we got a lot of really great press on it and then the fact they're putting it into market through Betabrand is so quick, in less than a year turned it from a concept that we had, which was very particular to one person's needs... and then they took it from a jacket who was geared towards Ryan and his specific needs to anyone in a seated position."

Like what you just read? Check out some more topics on bespoken:

Spotlight on Occupational Therapists

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