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Students in tight with Special Olympic athletes

Seneca-outfitted gymnasts took home 57 medals

fashion students

(l-r) Fashion Arts students Janvi Patel, Arielle Lopes, Sharic Bui and Zoe Chan check out fabrics with Kristyn Nowers, Fashion Arts Technician. The group outfitted the Special Olympics Ontario rhythmic gymnastics team at the 2018 Special Olympics National Summer Games.


It was a gymnastics floor, not a fashion runway. But for five Fashion Arts students, it was a stage set for perfect 10s at the 2018 Special Olympics National Summer Games, which took place earlier this month in Nova Scotia.

Sharic Bui, Zoe Chan, Arielle Lopes, Jenn Miller and Janvi Patel were hand-picked by faculty to take on a special field placement: outfitting the 15-member Special Olympics rhythmic gymnastics team representing Ontario.

Led by Kristyn Nowers, Fashion Arts Technician, the students began working on the leotards in the spring after the School of Fashion was contacted by Special Olympics Ontario to help them design a budget-friendly uniform for the Summer Games.

“It was a pilot project,” Nowers said. “It was for a really good cause and it was a really good learning experience for the students to work with different body types that are not necessarily conventional.”

Donna Edwards, head coach of the rhythmic gymnastics team, provided the students with her own design and guidelines, and she asked them to improve it.

Julia Kostecki

Julia Kostecki performs a ribbon routine at the Special Olympics National Summer Games wearing a leotard designed by Fashion Arts students at Seneca. Kostecki won gold in the event as well as in rope, ball, group floor and all around. Photo: Special Olympics Ontario

After just a total of two fittings, during which alterations were made to custom fit different arm lengths and measurements, the athletes fell in love with their outfits.

“They thought they looked pretty and they liked the sparkles,” Edwards said. “They were all about the sparkles.”

Overall, about 1,400 crystals were glued onto the leotards by the students, who had never worked with stretch fabrics before or fitted a live person.

“It was my first time pinning on a live person and I basically tried not to poke them and to fix everything in a short amount of time,” said Patel, who’s entering her third year in September.

While it was challenging at times working with fabrics that stretched differently and in different ways, Patel said the invaluable experience allowed her to improve her sewing skills.

“I was excited about making costumes — it’s not something we get to do often,” she said. “I now know a lot more about alteration than I did before.”

As for the athletes, the team took home 57 medals, 29 of them gold.

“We got lots of compliments on the leotards,” Edwards said. “The students did an excellent job and it was a good learning experience for everyone. We hope to collaborate again in the future.”

Special Olympics Ontario

The 15-member Special Olympics Ontario rhythmic gymnastics team was outfitted by Fashion Arts students at the 2018 Special Olympics National Summer Games in Nova Scotia. Led by head coach Donna Edwards (back row, far right), the team brought home 57 medals, 29 of them gold. Photo: Special Olympics Ontario