22-year-old Laura Richter has much to celebrate, graduating from Huddersfield University after years of hard work with first class honours. Laura is a fashion student who has Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy, and has used her talents and skills to put disability at the forefront of the fashion scene.
Laura conquered many obstacles along the way to her eventual success. One of which is the remarks towards her limp and facial expressions made by other students in the past. Another challenge she had faced was being unable to find an industry placement in the U.K. – Laura had to fly to Australia to complete an industry-based attachment for she was rejected by locally-based companies. But with determination and perseverance, Laura overcame these challenges.
The final year of university is undoubtedly one of the toughest periods of student life, and that is even more so for fashion students, as they are required to produce a collection which will be modeled at a professionally-staged show.
During Laura’s final year, knowing that she would have to work in the university’s fashion studio regularly, Laura moved into an adapted university accommodation. She was also supported by the university’s fashion department, which created a low-level work station in the studio. With all the logistics set in place, Laura focused on creating her graduate collection, titled The Beauty Battle.
The inspiration for her collection’s name came from The Royal Armouries in Leeds: Putting on makeup and clothes for the day, according to Laura, was akin to putting on battle armour. The Beauty Battle reflected Laura’s concerns about limited fashion choices for the disabled community, and so, she designed clothes to illustrate how fashion can be adapted for them. For instance, two out of her twelve-piece collection featured clothes designed specifically for wheelchair users – which Laura modelled herself – while others had elements created with techniques she learned from making adaptive clothing.
Her process for creating wheelchair adapted clothes included adapting her pattern cutting for a L-shaped figure instead of a standing figure, and taking into consideration how clothes look when the wearer is sitting. “The trousers that I made had elastic panels at the sides and the back was extended further than the front so that the waistband looked straight on someone sitting down,” Laura explains. “I put in some panels to mould trousers around the knee, almost as if they were a shoulder. And my cape has four pockets, two that are at the level you’d need when seated, two for when you are stood up.”
In addition to her skills, Laura’s committed attitude was another element that propelled her success. “I had to be very focused; eating the right things and sleeping the right amount,” she shares. “I had to be strict with my time.”
Now, upon graduation, Laura is hoping to pursue a career in garment technology. She has already started sourcing and applying for jobs, and hopes that she would not face concerns similar to when she was finding work placement. “I’m hoping that getting a first will help,” she says, “but finding the right place is a lot to do with access to buildings. I might find a job and they might like me but then I wouldn’t be able to access the building.”
However, Laura recognises that many companies built on older foundations are not as easily adaptable. Hence, Laura emphasises her independence: she has a mobility van and electric wheelchair that grants her more independence in getting around.
With such a determined attitude and the talent and skills to back it up, Laura certainly has what it takes to make her mark in the fashion world.
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