Michael Ryan Andolsek, Designer on Autism Spectrum, Creates Stunning Womenswear

Watching his clothes come down the runway, you may never know Michael Ryan Andolsek processes the world a different way than most fashion designers. Andolsek is on the autism spectrum, which he says gives him a passion for details. You can see that in his designs.

“Autism affects every aspect of my life, including how I work as a designer,” Andolsek told The Mighty. As the company’s founder and executive creator, Andolsek oversees all creative aspects of ANDOLSEK – his self-titled line of women’s apparel.

Image of a woman wearing a long blue dress.

Andolsek’s love of women’s fashion comes from growing up with four sisters. “I like the endless possibilities of silhouettes and occasions that are available for women,” Andolsek said. “With so many sisters, I’ve learned to understand that women want to feel amazing in their clothing, that when things fit properly and are aesthetically beautiful, their own internal beauty and confidence can shine brighter.”

When he was 17, Andolsek enrolled in Salt Lake Community College’s Fashion Institute. Two years later he moved to France to study fashion abroad with Parsons School of Design. A year later Andolsek returned from France, and, at the age of 21, was diagnosed with autism. Four years later, at the age of 25, Andolsek launched his own company.

Close up photo of a woman's skirt.

Andolsek’s experience as a person on the autism spectrum comes through in subtle ways in his designs. Because of his tactile sensitivities, Andolsek only works with certain fabrics. “Sometimes I create my designs after I’ve handled different fabrics, feeling and examining their unique qualities,” he said. “Other times I start with the croquis drawings and work with the fabrics afterward.”

Every little detail is important to Andolsek – from the way the garment is stitched, down to how it is packaged. “I designed our very elaborate 13-piece packaging, creating an experience for our customers where no detail is left unnoticed,” he said. “Our garments are expertly crafted with each sample undergoing a scrutiny of examinations from me so that I can ensure that they are perfect and luxurious.”

Based in Salt Lake City, Andolsek held his first runway show in late March, launching his Spring 2017 “Ready-To-Wear” collection. His high-fashion garments are priced based on the level of craftsmanship that goes into his work. ANDOLSEK’s skirts start at $325.00, while embroidered dresses go for $3,500.00.

Image of two women wearing tailored jackets and skirts.

Working in the fashion industry suits Andolsek’s needs. With his own company, Andolsek can set his own hours – he prefers working at night – and design his own workspace – well-lit, quiet and without any food or strong smells. “[I]n our workspaces, the temperature is altered depending on who is working, smells and food are never allowed, and certain chairs are provided,” he explained. “There are many aspects of fashion where, if certain accommodations are made, a person with autism could flourish and find a fulfilling and valued job.”

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Understanding My Son on the Autism Spectrum When He Doesn't Use Words to Communicate

My son and his classmates made their way from the doors of the school to the playground where parents gather to pick them up. My son let out a little groan and whine, which is almost always a prelude to tears. “What’s wrong? What happened?” My questions were met with silence. My son then got distracted [...]
Two photos side by side, one of a boy sitting on the floor of his room, the other of the boy with colorful images around him like a train, butterfly, and Mona Lisa painting

The Relief I Felt After My Son’s Autism Diagnosis

Relief. That’s the best word I can come up with to describe how I felt when we were given the autism diagnosis. Not scared, sad, angry; just relief. After all, nothing changed. He was the same sweet, adorable, funny guy he was before the diagnosis, but now we had answers. Now we knew why he [...]
Jonathan and James at a Mighty League assembly, with children sitting and watching the presentation

7 Positive Ways Self-Advocates, Parents and Educators Are Spreading Autism Awareness

When April is over, autism awareness must continue! In fact, it should never end, even when the public becomes more accepting and inclusive of autistic individuals. As people evolve in their understanding, what we talk about in terms of awareness will change. It’s important that we keep the conversations going so we can demystify autism. [...]
Photo of a man arrested with hands cuffed behind his back

John Benjamin Haygood, 10-Year-Old With Autism, Arrested at School

Last week, John Benjamin Haygood, a 10-year-old on the autism spectrum, spent a night in a juvenile detention center after he was arrested at his local school in Okeechobee, Florida. In October, Haygood kicked and scratched his paraprofessional educator and was suspended from school. Haygood returned to school on April 12 to take mandatory standardized tests, and upon returning, [...]