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Students showcase innovative health aids at Cardiff show

Easing the burden and pain of health and wellbeing issues is the focus of two key pieces at this year’s prestigious Masters Show at Cardiff Met.

The show runs until Wednesday and postgraduate Fashion Futures MA student Jemmalyn Borces and Product Design postgraduate Kayla McMail both know first hand how the limitations of health conditions or developmental and organ limitations can impact on everyday life.

The title of Jem’s work – Soliloquy of Pain – focusses on ‘Inclusivity through Adaptability,’ which could well be adopted as a title for Kayla’s piece. Jem’s two-layered heated and adaptive trousers have been created for those with lowered dexterity specifically caused by Arthritis. Her 53-year-old dad Jimmy has suffered with this for the last six years and she was his carer when she also lived in the Philippines.

Soliloquy of Pain

Kayla, who is from Caerleon, teamed up with Swansea-based Cerebra Innovation Centre to re-design her ‘Oxygem’ device under the guidance of Cerebra Designer Gerallt Devonald, a former Cardiff Met student keen to offer current designers a five-week placement.

The durable Birch plywood Oxygem is a user-friendly piece of kit for transporting oxygen tanks, feed pumps and ventilators around schools and hospitals with Kayla receiving input from parents and health professionals including occupational health therapists at leading Alder Hay Hospital in Liverpool.

Kayla’s Oxygem

Kayla used facilities at Cerebra as well as at Cardiff Met’s state of the art School of Art and Design and said: “I have spent the last five years working for the Leonard Cheshire charity, which helps disabled people with learning and independent lifestyle. I could see how designing for disabilities would be rewarding in tackling everyday issues and constraints and help handle those much more efficiently.”

Jem added: “Arthritis has become non-age specific, mainly because of unhealthy lifestyle choices people indulge in, especially with too much convenience. Man is made to move, and like any machine, once left unused, functionality can most likely get compromised resulting to problems and ultimately, can lead to dysfunctionality.

“Knowing what my dad, our friends and acquaintances have to go through, I realised that there is an avenue in fashion that can help lessen their pain.  Some types of clothing aggravate affected joints and I believe that the future of fashion can level with engineers and even doctors, with collaboration and integration.

“Adaptive clothing is becoming a trend with big brands like Nike and renowned designers like Tommy Hilfiger with their disability-friendly designs that promote and takes into consideration  functional qualities of clothing for the disables minority.

“Inclusivity can be achieved through familiarity and practicality, which achievable for designers and we hold a responsibility. These are low tech and non-gimmicky rather than futuristic.”

Jem’s practical heat-padded trousers for women are also inspired by the spine and rib, which she depicts in the trimming details as she believes these are the body’s most interesting and intricate structures, which also symbolise support and flexibility. Her dad Jimmy considered sticking to hot compresses with sea salted water after being hospitalised two years ago with liver problems because of the side effects of traditional medicinal painkillers. The padding in Jem’s designs is also inspired by this.

The Masters Show runs at Cardiff School of Art and Design until Wednesday: www.csad.online