Zoe Brookes

FASHION FOCUS: LUCY JONES | FASHION INTERVIEW

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In a Parsons classroom, back in 2012, fresh-faced Welsh fashion student Lucy Jones was faced with an overwhelming mission. “One of my teachers said to me, ‘Design a project that could change the world,'” she recalls. “And I just thought, ‘I’m in fashion — how am I going to change the world?'”

Lucy JonesI met with Lucy, four-years-on from that assignment, having now become one of the world’s brightest entrepreneurs – charting the Forbes ‘30 under 30’ list – for creating a clothing-line specifically for disabled people.

Our Lucy, originally from Cardiff, has made a name for herself among the Parsons’ alumni of Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan and Alexander Wang for her unique “seated design” collection – her response to Parson’s overwhelming assignment.

“At the time I was exploring the relationship between Disability and Beauty; I’d started designing clothes with disability in mind – but it wasn’t really ‘a thing’. I’d strap my left arm and leg down and proceed to put on a shirt and a pair of trousers and I realised how difficult the clothing became. I was mimicking my cousin Jake’s disability. I remember thinking: there could be many more designs and entry points into garments that could be alternatives.”

As it turns out, the project that at first felt a feat instead set her on a path that defined her college experience. The award-winning collection she ultimately designed is for self-propelled, seated disabled people — a segment of society completely ignored by the fashion industry today.

“There are offerings often called ‘adaptive’ design, but many were outdated, expensive and unattractive. Think of a bright pink polar fleece and Velcro. I saw the design process less of an inspiration and more of an awareness and focus toward a large portion of society often excluded from the fashion industry.”

Jones began her research in the summer of 2014, with the help of United Cerebral Palsy in Manhattan and Brooklyn, deciding the work would be the focus of her final-year of study and that aforementioned project to “change the world”.

“The results were really overwhelming,” she says. “Everyone was telling me they just didn’t feel considered in fashion and they just had to make do.”

Throughout the process, Lucy maintained a democratic approach. Her designs would be worn by anyone who wanted clothing that makes sitting easier, whether they are disabled or not. “I didn’t want to be an adaptive designer, I said that from the beginning,” she says. “Just like there is a ‘petite’ section, a ‘maternity’ section, I want disability to be included in designers approach from the very beginning.

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It was that pioneering thinking that enabled Jones to receive such huge recognition in the Big Apple – winning several major prizes, including Womenswear Designer of the Year, the prestigious Kering Award XStyle.com Award and now a ranking in Forbes’ ’30 under 30’.

Commenting on making the Forbes list, Lucy said: “When it was announced I was at a dinner in Cardiff Bay. My phone was buzzing with texts of ‘congratulations’ – and I have no idea what people were congratulating me for! I had to ask a friend: ‘what was going on?’…When I came to the realization I started shaking and my parents were teary-eyed. I was in shock – and I still can’t believe it!”

Despite all of her success, Lucy is still grounded. She told me: “I honestly don’t think about my accomplishments, but now and again I have a thought of ‘how far I have come’ in a few years and I feel so lucky to be able to live my dream.”

So what’s next for the 24-year-old entrepreneur? “I need to touch the ground first,” she says, laughing. “I am working on a few projects with different companied, but all geared towards the same goal. Unfortunately I cannot disclose any more information but that, but sit tight, it’s coming!”

 words ZOE BROOKES

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