Special Needs Children Rock The Runway
By Angie Kay Dilmore
Clothing designer Indrea Gordon combined her passion for fashion and her love for special needs children to create a unique program called Fashion Without Limitations. She specifically designed the program to benefit disabled or terminally ill children.
Gordon works with special needs children, either one-on-one or in small groups. She helps them learn such life skills as good grooming, etiquette and effective communication.
Gordon concludes the program by designing for each child an outfit that the child showcases on the runway in a bona fide fashion show.
“Special needs children tend to be overlooked,” says Gordon. “My program makes them feel like they are a part of society, not set apart. It’s about building self-esteem, self-love and awareness. When I put them in a fashion show, they feel included. At that moment, no one is focused on their disabilities.”
Fashion Without Limitations got its start in early 2014 when Gordon worked as a substitute teacher at the Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy. The principal recommended her to work closely with two disabled children.
Initially, she didn’t think she was the right person for the job. But she says she prayerfully reconsidered and decided to accept the challenge. “It has been a complete life-changing experience,” she says.
Through her work with Brandon Colligan and Briannah Allen, who were in third grade at the time, Gordon developed the concepts for her innovative program.
Colligan has autism. Because Gordon designs custom bow ties, she made one for the boy. When she gave Colligan that first bow tie, he said to her, “Ms. Gordon, this makes me feel like I’m going to be the president.”
Gordon reflects on the significance of his statement: “One simple bow tie made him feel like he can accomplish anything.” Since then, Gordon has given him several bow ties and he wears one to school every day.
Allen suffers from cerebral palsy. Gordon says Allen loves shoes and beads and color. “Briannah likes to look pretty. She can’t speak, but she can communicate that those things matter to her. She rocked that wheelchair on the runway!”
Amanda Sapp with Covenant Connections handles Gordon’s public relations. When Gordon travels around the country to showcase her designs in fashion shows, Sapp does the preliminary research to identify children in that area who might benefit from the program. Sapp also helps Gordon work with the children in the classes.
“She’s my right hand,” says Gordon. “It would be impossible for me to teach these children if I didn’t have help.”
To date, Gordon and Sapp have coached approximately 100 children across the country, including 15 in Southwest Louisiana.
Gordon says she has loved fashion since she was nine. She grew up in Crowley, La., and found her way to California, where she studied at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. She also became a hair stylist. She owned and operated two salons and a boutique in Seaside, Calif. When her father became ill 11 years ago, she sold her businesses and moved to Lake Charles to care for him.
Gordon says Lake Charles isn’t the most lucrative place for a fashion designer to live. But she’s come to see her profession and her Fashion Without Limitations program as more than a business.
“As a designer, I understand that it’s not so much about selling clothing. Clothing is a craft. But it’s the gift behind the craft that matters. We can use our gifts to bless others. When you can use your gift to change a person’s life, there’s no greater reward than that. I have found a love of changing people’s lives — one garment at a time.”
For more information, call Gordon at 309-0945, visit her website at quadclothingcompany.com or find her on Facebook.