Bringing Fashion to Health and Technology

By Jailene Adorno

What if the contestants on Project Runway were tasked with making clothes for people with disabilities? This was the very question that prompted Grace Teo and Alice Tin to start Open Style Lab, a public project focused on making “style accessible to people of all abilities.”

A motivator for this project was an assignment brought upon by MIT that had to do with health and technology. As part of her PhD program at MIT in health sciences and technology, Teo spent three months following around doctors and patients to find what there was a need for.

After speaking with one patient who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, they realized that some people with physical disabilities truly missed the ease and independence of dressing. This inspired Teo and Tin to bring fashion to health and technology.

“I realized that most of the clothes out there, that are meant for people with disabilities, are for the geriatric community, and limited in their range of styles,” says Teo.

 

Teo and Tin weren’t entirely sure what they were doing or how to get started. They just knew that they wanted to learn something new and this would be a great way of doing so, while also having more of a social impact. They teamed up with designers and occupational therapists to get their idea in motion and discuss what it really means to be a person with a disability.

In the trial program, they had people split into eight teams comprised of designers and occupational therapists to make customizable clothes for specific clients.

“The people who were attracted to the program were people with very big hearts,” says Teo.

Open Style Lab is a nonprofit organization, but they are working on partnering with larger retail companies so that people everywhere can wear the clothing.

Originally from Singapore, Teo is fascinated by the vibrant startup ecosystem in the United States. Before starting this venture, Teo was pursuing her Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Health Sciences and Technology. After receiving her Ph.D., she was a lecturer at MIT, teaching students about designing clothes for people with disabilities while directing Open Style Lab.

To learn more about Open Style Lab, click here.