Students from Pratt, Parsons & FIT were mentored by Anna Sui to design innovative clothing for people with disabilities, showcased at CPF's Gala

NYC’s “Other” Great Fashion Gala! Cerebral Palsy Foundation’s Design for Disability

Last night, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation (CPF) held its third Annual Design for Disability Gala, which showcases new fashions for people with disabilities. Outfits, which feature innovations in fit, closures, and form, are designed by students from F.I.T., Pratt and Parsons, with insights from CPF’s disability experts and well as with mentorship from a legendary fashion designer. This year’s mentor was Anna Sui, who will soon have a show at NY’s Museum of Art and Design.

Said Anna, “When I think of fashion, I think of expression: really showing what you have on the inside on the outside. Working with the students, and model mentors with disabilities to make this happen was a joyful experience. I am so thrilled to have been part of this project – and to see the extraordinary work and how well it was received.”

The evening was attended by not only Ms. Sui, but also last year’s mentor, Derek Lam as well as Norma Kamali and Alexander Wang. Other attendees included Sofia Coppola,  Hanne Gaby, Odiele. Zhengyang Zhang, Cristina Piccone, Jillian Mercado, Sophia Macks, Marc Karimzadeh, Loreen Arbus, director Sam Gold and producer Peter Saraf. Celebrities from the world of disabilities included  Micah Fowler, Zach Anner, and Dan Keplinger, and Madison Ferris.

The fashions were remarkable: gorgeous in design as well as the way they incorporated dozens of innovations which made them easier to be worn by people with disabilities. A short film showcasing that design process is available on CPF’s website at

The evening began with a VR film, Inside My Head, which gave attendees a sense of what it’s like to live life in a wheelchair and using a speech device. The film starred Thomas Ellenson and had voice over by  Gregg Mozgala, currently appearing in New York Theater Workshop production of Caryl Churchill’s Light Shining in Buckinghamshire.

After the show, CPF CEO Richard Ellenson introduced the evening by saying. “You’ve now experienced the real challenges of living life with disabilities – and the isolation felt when others don’t have the proper perspective in understanding you. You’ve then seen the gorgeous energy that shines through when we look through the lens of fashion. IN fact, the fashion show is a metaphor for all the work of our Foundation: from early detection of CP to improving inclusion in schools, to providing better healthcare for adults. If we innovate and create better supports, lives change. The only real tragedy about disabilities is that we can do much more to change how people are perceived – and to provide the supports and insights that allow increases in potential and opportunity.”

The gala honoree was Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, founder of Vera Bradley. Barbara’s brother, whose late brother Jamie, had cerebral palsy. Barbara was given the foundation’s Visionary Leadership award and recognized for her incredible accomplishments and spirit: not only for her optimism, but her ability to share it with others and bring change and opportunity to so many.

The gala was attended by over 400 people and raised close to one million dollars.