When Karen Bowersox set out to design a fashion line for people with Down syndrome, she had her granddaughter, Maggie, in mind — not adult men with disabilities that make it difficult to manipulate a button or zipper. But her endeavor is reaching a new audience.
Maggie, now 9, is a model for Downs Designs, her grandmother’s 4-year-old business that offers jeans, shirts and shorts for people with Down syndrome. Bowersox’s original idea was to create clothes that could be easily put on and taken off. Pants have elastic waists, and jeans are stretchy. There are no skin-irritating tags nor hard-to-operate zippers. Above all — the clothes are stylish.
“I think people with disabilities are the most fashion-forgotten people in [the U.S.],” Bowersox, 65, told The Mighty.
In the last year, as Downs Designs gained media attention, Bowersox discovered a great need for jeans for men who have limited use of their hands or upper body and would benefit from pants without zippers or a button. So, she’s created a sister company, NBZ Jeans.
“I’ve realized that jeans without buttons or zippers don’t have to be limited to men with Down syndrome,” Bowersox told The Mighty. “The line will benefit men with autism or cerebral palsy or even arthritis — any disability that makes putting on jeans difficult.”
Men without disabilities have shown interest in NBZ Jeans, too. One customer who professionally rides motorcycles, told Bowersox that her jeans were the only ones he could wear while racing.
“Our jeans aren’t just a pair of jeans,” Bowersox told The Mighty.
Above all, Downs Designs and NBZ Jeans are meant to instill confidence.
“People in our clothes don’t have to be nervous to do ordinary things like go to the bathroom or change in a public place,” Bowersox said. “They don’t have to wear pants that look like bloomers and fit awkwardly. They can just be themselves.”