Until her granddaughter was born, business owner Karen Bowersox was unaware of the everyday challenges that Down syndrome presents to families. Bowersox learned quickly the struggle to find properly fitted shirts and pants. “I didn’t know that there was a body shape difference,” she explains. Makeshift, uncomfortable alterations have to be made for store-bought items to function, and even then those pieces aren’t flattering. With her granddaughter as inspiration, Bowersox was driven to help others with Down syndrome.
The venture was at first very foreign to her — three years ago, she knew nothing about fashion design or clothing manufacturing, but now she sees her small special needs clothing company, Downs Designs, growing quickly, reaching even international customers. Bowersox explains the immediate change that well-fitting clothes make with her customers: not only do they look better, but they gain confidence and independence. Pants are made without buttons or zippers, and each pair is hemmed to order. “It’s life changing for me, for other people, for parents.” The shop is located in Mentor, Ohio, but customers outside of Northeast Ohio can shop the entire line through the company’s website. Downs Designs specializes in jeans and offers multiple styles for different body types, while keeping in mind the mobility and sensory issues associated with Down syndrome. The line also includes long sleeve shirts, and Bowersox hopes to expand to include other items like jackets and khakis.
Downs Designs, 8796 Tyler Boulevard, Mentor. 440-290-8903. www.downsdesigns.com. —BA