by Stephen Garner

Global Brands Group has partnered with the International Fashion Academy Paris (IFA Paris) to support the first edition of the school’s Unthreading Project. The four-month postgraduate program will focus on sustainable and inclusive fashion design, with students creating apparel specifically for disabled people. The program will culminate in a juried show in April, when two of the students’ adaptive fashion designs will be chosen to be manufactured by Global Brands and then sold beginning later this year on JUNIPERunltd, the first destination site and online marketplace dedicated to designing the future of inclusivity through content, community, and commerce.

“Supporting IFA Paris through this program aligns with Global Brands’ commitment to refocusing our attention on diversity, equity, and inclusion within our own company and doing our part within the broader industry,” said Rick Darling, CEO of Global Brands. “Through this partnership, we’ll be able to share our research on fashion and disability as well as our global supply chain, sustainability, technology, marketing and content expertise and resources with students and then bring their designs to market to better meet the fashion needs of a diverse consumer base, in particular, disabled people.”

As part of the 2021 Unthreaded program, students will learn from disability advocates and develop design solutions to inaccessibility, creating wearable, fashionable capsule collections with commercial market potential using recycled materials and sustainable design processes. A jury of industry experts, including two Global Brands executives, will choose the two adaptive clothing designs that best balance creativity, wearability, sustainability, and commercial appeal to manufacture and subsequently offer to customers on the JUNIPERunltd marketplace.

“Diversity in fashion starts with designers and this program aims to give IFA Paris students the training and tools they need to always think through the lens of inclusivity,” added Maura Horton, chief community officer at JUNIPERunltd. “We’re thrilled to be able to help guide these students and drive thought leadership in the fashion industry by sharing our fashion and disability expertise, so they can learn how to create fashions that combine style, function, and comfort while meeting the unique user requirements that people with different disabilities have.”

The students will use upcycled materials created from excess stock donated by Global Brands portfolio companies to create their sustainable designs. Global Brands is also supplying innovative design technologies, such as the MagnaReady and MagnaZip magnetic closures that are used in products from its own MagnaReady adaptive apparel brand. In addition, students will be able to use digital avatars created by Li & Fung during the design process, reducing material waste and saving resources.

Global Brands will also host a lecture series as part of the program, helping identify and secure guest lecturers who will share their insights on sustainability and circular fashion, a lived experience of disability, inclusive design, and other relevant topics. A weekly workshop focusing on what the fashion industry can do to address inaccessibility will also be part of the curriculum. In addition, IFA Paris and Global Brands will produce a short-form documentary that gives a behind-the-scenes look at the students’ process and tells the story of the Unthreaded Project in order to drive conversations of change around inclusivity and diversity in the fashion industry.

JUNIPERunltd, where the juried designs will eventually be offered for sale, is a content and community hub and online marketplace that launched last year. Created by and for the disabled, caregiver, and aging communities, the site aims to build community and empathy for people with a connection to disability, injury, illness, and the challenges of aging.