Parsons Open Style Lab

Universal Materiality Event

Universal Materiality

Feb 4 – Feb 25, 2019

Universal Materiality is a collective group of work reflecting the research collaboration between the Institute of Textiles & Clothing (ITC), The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, HKSAR (HKPolyU) and the School of Fashion at Parsons School of Design. In collaboration with Open Style Lab (OSL), a nonprofit dedicated to making style accessible for people with disabilities, this exhibition features seven accessible designs with smart material explorations that involved the collaborative work between multi-disciplinary practitioners (inclusive of fashion designers, engineers, and occupational /physical therapists) and long-term residents from The Riverside Premier Rehabilitation and Healing Center.

This exhibition encourages you to consider the ways disability is interpreted in bodies, abilities, and through the act of dressing. Clothing plays an important role in promoting and protecting the rights of older people with disabilities and facilitating their full participation in society. The current availability of clothing meeting their needs is not reflective of the positive relationship between style orientation and personal wellbeing. This body of work seeks to strengthen the relationship between the design process and end users, while applying materials that contribute to style preference and functional requirements in clothing.

The work reveals two parts of the co-design process: (1) Material studies between both research groups in Hong Kong to examine the potential for smart textiles and digital processes like 3D printing to address specific needs of users; (2) Applying the findings into practice with people with disabilities or older people throughout the 2018 Open Style Lab summer program at Parsons School of Design. The garments, textiles, and material studies inside this gallery integrated considerate uses of technology and style for the residents at Riverside Rehab to live a more independent and expressive lifestyle.

Research Leads

  • Grace Jun, Assistant Professor of Fashion

  • Dr. Jeanne Tan, Associate Professor in Fashion & Textile Design

This exhibition is made possible with support from the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons School of Fashion (RSCP), The New School Faculty Research Fund Award (FRF) from the Provost Office, and the Institute of Textiles & Clothing (ITC), The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The research leaders wish to thank the following contributors for their insight, support, and resources:

Sheila C. Johnson Design Center Staff – Christiane Paul, Kristina Kaufman, Daisy Wong, Daniel Chou

Parsons School of Fashion, Dean  – Burak Cakmak

Parsons School of Fashion, Research Scholarship and Creative Practice (RSCP) Committee – Hazel Clark, Jason Kass, Timo Rissanen, Marie Genevieve Cyr, Shelley Fox, Fiona Dieffenbacher

Institute of Textiles and Clothing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityDr. Jeanne Tan, Mr. Wong Wang Wah, Mr. Kevin Hui, Ngai Chi Hang, Yuen Chun Fai, Ziqian Bai, Amy Chen, Lan Ge, Li Shao, Wing Chung Wong, Heeyoung Kim, Xingxing Zou

Open Style Lab – Grace Jun, Christina Mallon, Pinar Guvenc, Aroom Han, Kilian Son, Johnathan Hayden, Julia Liao, Vanessa Sanchez, Wooksang Kwon, Kieran Kern, Peter Troljic, Irene Park, Amy Jung, Claudia Poh.

2018 Open Style Lab Summer Program Clients (Residents at Riverside Rehab)- Robert Appelman, Ada Stewart, Velda Alleyne, Wanda Rosario, Roxine (Roxie) Gassette, Michele Bachrach, Harriet Walerstein, Florence Harrington

2018 Open Style Lab Summer Program Fellows

  • Team Michele –  Camila Chiriboga, Sid Lamaute, Jessica Otolo

  • Team Wanda – Nicholas Paganelli, Mikael Kalin, Amélie Lavoie

  • Team Velda – Tiffany Hwang, Manlin Song, Lindsey Day

  • Team Roxie – Alyssa Wardrop. Ray LC, Michael Tranquilli

  • Team Robert – Bolor Amgalan, Herbert Ramirez, Alyssa Brandofino

  • Team Ada – Heeyoung Kim, Grace Wu, Julie Osipow

  • Team Florence –Amy Chen, Julia Lemle, Karen Moskowitz

The Riverside Premier Rehabilitation and Healing Center and CareRite Center – Ashley Romano, Cathy Diamond, Lindsey Hall

Exhibition Design – Eray / Carbajo

Graphic Design – Wooksang Kwon

Accessibility Consulting –Peter Trojic

Parsons Research Assistant Students:

  • Bolor Amgalan, MFA Design & Technology ‘20

  • Zihao Chen, MFA Design & Technology ‘20

  • Katya Ekimian, BFA Fashion ‘20

Special thank you to Victoria Manganiello and Tsvetanka Uzunova

Opening Reception & Panel
Feb 5, 2019
Three scholarly researchers from health, tech, and fashion on the body will present individual work followed by a discussion of aging and disability.

Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003 at Parsons School of Design, The New School

Grace Jun (PARSONS) – NY Exhibition Lead
Grace is a designer and thought leader working at the intersection of universal design & fashionable technology. She is an Assistant Professor of Fashion at Parsons School of Design, and Executive Director at Open Style Lab (OSL), a non-profit organization dedicated to making style accessible to people of all abilities ( elderly / people with disabilities, people facing injury). Her work was recently displayed at the FIT Museum’s Body Exhibit She has been asked to speak about disability and design in numerous settings, including Design Indaba 2017 recently Forbes. Prior to Parsons and Open Style Lab, Grace’s design work can be seen in several of the early feature phones, smart phones, and wearable watches launched through Verizon or T-Mobile by Samsung Electronics. Her experience as a UX designer and design strategist at Samsung for five years has helped develop her research focus on the wearable experience and fashion technology products.

Francesca Granata (PARSONS)
Francesca Granata, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons School of Design, The New School. Her research centers on
modern and contemporary visual and material culture, with a focus on fashion history and theory, gender and performance studies. Her book Experimental Fashion: Performance Art, Carnival and the Grotesque Body (London: I.B. Tauris, 2017) explores nonnarmative bodies in fashion and examines the way experimental fashion at the turn of the 21 st century mediated shifting gender norms and the AIDS crisis. She has published in The Atlantic, Fashion Theory, The Journal of Design History and Fashion Practice, as well as in a number of books and exhibition catalogues. She co-curated “Ethics Aesthetics,” the first American exhibition to explore fashion and sustainability and has worked as a consultant on exhibitions such as Native Fashion Now. She is the editor and founder of the non-profit journal Fashion Projects ( Granata is currently editing an anthology on fashion criticism, forthcoming from Bloomsbury.

Smita Rao (NYU)
Smita Rao is a physical therapist. Her PhD and postdoctoral training are in the area of biomechanics and rehabilitation. She is currently an Associate Professor of Physical Therapy at NYU and a Research Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU School of Medicine. Her teaching and clinical practice leverage her research expertise in understanding movement. Her current work examines how movement quality and quantity can impact patients’ health and well being. The overall goal of Smita’s work is to improve physical therapy and rehabilitation care in individuals with conditions such as diabetes and osteoarthritis.This line of research has been funded by the Arthritis Foundation, Rheumatology Research Foundation, and most recently by the National Institute of Health. It has been widely disseminated in peer reviewed literature and offered for continuing clinical education credit.

“The best part of my job”, Smita says, “is that I get to use my head, my heart, and my hands. I love the combination of teaching, clinical practice, and research, and I am grateful for the many outstanding people I get to work with – students, patients, and colleagues.”

“Collaborating with Grace and Open Style lab has been a highlight of the last few years. Every colleague and student and patient who has participated, has come away feeling inspired. Your cross-disciplinary approach, client-centered problem solving, and above all, this culture of innovation and inclusion are such a beacon of hope in today’s healthcare landscape.”

Anna Young (MIT)
MakerHealth CEO Anna Young works from a fundamental belief that, with the right tools, everyday people can use their ingenuity to create devices that heal. Applying years of global experience with the Maker Movement, Anna brings prototyping tools and makerspaces into hospitals enhance the natural problem solving abilities of clinicians and patients. Anna is the Co-Founder of MakerNurse, an RWJF sponsored program to support inventive, frontline nurses. Anna’s roots come from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as researcher in the Little Devices Lab and lecturer in the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. Anna has spoken at TEDMED, WIRED Health and leading academic medical centers on the topic democratized medical device fabrication and user innovation. She was recognized by LinkedIn as a top Health Innovator under 35 and in 2016 received Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business.

Live streaming:

More details on the New School Event Page here:


Accessible entrances to The Aronson Gallery on 66 Fifth Avenue are located at Fifth Avenue and 13th Street at Parsons School of Design. The Fifth Avenue entrance has a ramp that is accessible to wheelchair users and other visitors who need to avoid stairs. Visitors with disabilities may use mobility devices, including manual and electric wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and manually powered mobility aids (such as walkers, canes, and crutches) in all areas open to public pedestrian use. The following online description of each work below can be accessed through a smartphone or other device with supportive voice features to read each description.