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Revolutionary exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum showcases making fashion truly accessible
Seated Trench Coat June 2009. IZ Adaptive Clothing © Chris Chapman.

TORONTO.- Fashion Follows Form: Designs for Sitting, opening at the Royal Ontario Museum on June 21, 2014, features fashions from internationally acclaimed, Toronto-based designer Izzy Camilleri’s IZ Adaptive collection. The exhibition showcases Camilleri’s innovative, fashionable, functional — and affordable—designs that are among the first in the world created exclusively to meet the needs of women and men who use wheelchairs. Displayed alongside Camilleri’s designs are 18th and 19th century fashions from the ROM’s renowned collection, also created for a seated, L-shaped body.

Dr. Alexandra Palmer, the Nora E. Vaughan Fashion Costume Senior Curator in the ROM’s World Cultures department, was motivated to collaborate with Camilleri after discovering the designer’s shop in Toronto’s west end. “Izzy has been called ‘Canada’s most PC (Perfectly Cut) fashion designer’ for good reason. She has broken new ground by designing and creating pieces for maximum comfort, ease, and style for those who have traditionally had difficulty finding clothing that fits,” said Dr. Palmer. “We hope this exhibition inspires visitors to think about the role fashion plays in our daily lives as well as the historical relationship between fashion and function.”

The exhibition’s Honorary Chairs are fashion media icon Jeanne Beker and journalist Barbara Turnbull who was Izzy Camilleri’s first seated client. Ms. Turnbull became quadriplegic in her teens after being shot during a robbery while working as a convenience store cashier. She had asked the designer to make her a shearling cape and the challenges encountered while creating the garment motivated Camilleri to launch IZ Adaptive in 2009. Most fashion designers create clothing for a standing frame body, not accounting for the clothing and mobility issues of a person who uses a wheelchair. The IZ Adaptive collection is designed to be easily put on and comfortable for wearing all day in a seated position.

“I’m honoured to work with the ROM to demonstrate that fashion and style can be accessible to everyone. I hope this exhibition generates greater awareness of the obstacles facing physically challenged people and invites conversation around the issues of inclusion, dignity, sense of empowerment, and embracing possibilities,” said Izzy Camilleri.

Included in the exhibition is a Camillieri-designed leather jacket, trench coat, wedding dress, and tuxedo—all of which defy traditional design and pattern-making conventions. These pieces are juxtaposed with historical fashions from the ROM’s collection including a dolman designed to accommodate a large bustle, an 18th and 19th century side-saddle riding habit, and male 18th century breeches and modern early 19th century trousers. Fashion Follows Form also features Camilleri's iconic designs including the silver fox coat worn by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (2006).

Fashion Follows Form is on display from June 21, 2014 until January 25, 2015 in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume. It shares the gallery space with Cairo Under Wraps: Early Islamic Textiles which features over 50 early Islamic textiles dating from the 8th to 14th centuries, including textiles collected by C.T. Currelly, the Museum’s founding director.

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