Nadav Levi, 40, was the first Israeli ever to compete in the Paralympics Games in the precision ball sport of boccia, and now ranks 10th in the world. But despite his athletic prowess, Levi has difficulty putting on and taking off a suit jacket due to his cerebral palsy.
Fashion and textile design students from Israel’s renowned Shenkar College of Engineering and Design recently custom-made articles of clothing for Levi and 11 other Israeli Paralympic athletes, as their graduation project.
Dubbed “Good Intentions,” the first-time project in cooperation with the Israel Paralympic Committee involved 24 Shenkar students – two working with each athlete. On July 14, the Paralympians modeled the adaptive clothing at the college’s year-end show, which doubled as the students’ final exam.
Levi tells ISRAEL21c that the process started over a cup of coffee with the two students assigned to him: Amit Giladi (textile design) and Tamara Golan (fashion design).
They asked him what articles of clothing give him the most difficulty, and he told them he cannot find a blazer that allows him the range of motion he needs to put it on and take it off. Buttoning jeans can be problematic too. He also mentioned that because of his crutches, he can’t hold an umbrella.
Giladi and Golan noodled on that for a few weeks and decided to create a blazer with an attachable rain cape, as well as a pair of coordinating trousers.
“I was surprised because they chose a difficult path,” he says. “I sent them a video of how I cannot take off a blazer and also how I put my shoes on and take off my pants so they would know the movements and what I need to deal with.”
Fittings proved challenging because Levi’s legs are not of equal length and his shoulders and hips are not symmetrical. But the duo persevered.
The jacket and trousers were designed with visually appealing and practical vents that enable them to stretch enough for easy putting on and taking off.
Five days before the show, Levi went for a fitting and discovered that the pants were too tight. The students widened them a bit but, Levi says with a laugh, “I was afraid to eat in those five days so I wouldn’t gain any weight. I existed on salad.”
Among the other designs modeled at the Shenkar show were a pair of pants that blurs the difference between the width of shooter Julia Chernoy’s legs; an outfit for tennis player Adam Berdichevski that take into consideration his prosthesis; and a dance costume for Vital Zinger to wear in the upcoming World Para Dance Championship. The costume creatively extends to her wheelchair.
Instructors Maya Arazi, Hadas Himmelschein, Tamar Mani and Elisa Levinton said in a joint statement: “For us, as a teaching team at Shenkar, it is very important that our students learn to be good designers, and at the same time people with broad horizons and positively influential in the world in which they live, using the design tools they have been given.”