DETROIT — Forget willowy, doe-eyed models. Fashion design students in Detroit have found a new muse: the homeless.
Under the direction of Stephen Schock, an industrial design professor at the College for Creative Studies, students are taking to the street to design fashion solutions for frostbite, trench foot and long nights spent sleeping on the ground in below-freezing weather, The New York Times reported.
"I looked around and thought, This city has such need, we have to figure out a way to have our students become problem-solvers here," Schock told the Times. "So I started a design activism class."
The class has inspired some students to go on to found nonprofit organizations.
For her class project, 22-year-old Veronika Scott designed a coat that doubles as a sleeping bag. After graduating in December, she fired up a nonprofit, called The Empowerment Plan, to make and distribute the coats. Scott trains and pays recently homeless women to make the coats, which are distributed to those living on the streets. Already, The Empowerment Plan has churned out 275 coats.
Mike Forbes, 27, founded a charitable T-shirt company called Anymile Clothing after taking the class. His tagline is, "This isn't fashion ... it's a movement." He plans to use the proceeds from sales to refine a bag he designed for the homeless that doubles as a protective foot covering.
Initially, Scott told Forbes her inspiration was a "grade" and her goal was "not to fail." But, in the process of designing the coat, she built a relationship with the homeless community. She spent so much time on the street she earned the nickname the "Crazy Coat Lady."
"What was I supposed to do after school, say, 'Bye, it's been nice working with you'?" she said.