Apparel faculty member wins Excellence in Marketable Design Award at international conference

Front image of the See Me Rain Kit

Kristen Morris, assistant professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Design and Merchandising, won the ATEXINC Award for Excellence in Marketable Textile Design in the professional category at the virtual International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) conference. Her design, titled “See Me – Adaptive Rain Kit for People Who Use a Wheelchair for Mobility Assistance” won in the creative design category for professionals.

The design

See Me: Adaptive Rain Kit includes three coordinating pieces and includes an adaptive rain vest, a quarter-zip pullover, and a technical legging. Morris designed the garments in a fluorescent color and retroreflective fabrics to enhance visibility in low light.

“See Me, the title of this work, is a double entendre devised to have a literal meaning – catch one’s attention for safety considerations, and the second meaning is an appeal to recognize that the person with the disability is, first and foremost, a person,” Morris said. “The purpose of this design is to embolden the wearer to unapologetically be seen and provide weather protection and visibility.”

Morris not only made the design fashionable and eye-catching, but also made various adaptations to traditional apparel making the garment functional and accessible to those who use a wheelchair for mobility access. Design considerations included bonded zipper pockets accessible from a seated position, a cut in a seated fit, and extra water protection for the tops of the legs that are exposed to the elements in a seated position.

Inclusive Innovations Laboratory

Morris leads the Inclusive Innovations Laboratory, a design and research space devoted to user-centered design, technology-enhanced design, design that is both accessible and equitable, and research and teaching integration. Past projects have included Trans-Positive Apparel for the transgender or gender non-binary community and other projects that work to understand apparel-related barriers for people living with disabilities.

Technical drawings of the See Me Rain Kit

About ITAA

The International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) is the leading academic organization for the textile and apparel industry. Their mission is to advance “excellence in education, scholarship and innovation, and their global applications.” ITAA is the premier venue to exhibit creative scholarship in the textile and apparel field. Morris said, “For creative scholarship to be accepted to ITAA, it undergoes a double-blind peer-review process. The acceptance rates for this venue are between 31% and 51%, similar to the acceptance rate of quality scholarly journals.”

The organization holds a yearly conference in November. ITAA created a video presentation celebrating awards recipients this year. Award recipients are also featured in the ITAA catalog. Morris believes it is important to consistently submit and exhibit work when committed to practice-based design research. She typically submits 1-3 garment designs to ITAA each year. Morris’s philosophy on creative scholarship is “Design tends to discover new things in the process of making new things.”

The conference plans to be in person next year and will be held in Denver, Colorado. Morris is a part of the planning committee bringing the conference to the Mountain West region so close to CSU.

The Department of Design and Merchandising is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.