Highlighting My Arthritis Pain: More Than a Fashion Statement
Lighting It Up, Letting It Go
When I was in serious pain, at my worst — right before I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) — I felt like the joints throughout my body lit up like a string of lights wrapped around a Christmas tree. This collection is a graphic concept of that sensation.
While creating these designs — and the act of self-expression — didn’t exactly lessen my pain, the creative work did bring relief for some issues. I had been secretive about my illness, and now that my RA diagnosis is out in the open, a weight has been lifted off me. It’s a revelation. I can be more truthful about why I’m not feeling well. And truthfulness feels much better than secrets.
Illuminating an Invisible Illness
RA can be an invisible illness. I want to illustrate it for people who can’t see it, don’t have it, or don’t understand it. Some people need visuals; if I show where I have pain, it will help some people get it.
Fashion can create a conversation. Together, the colors and graphics communicate the hurt to those who don’t know it personally. Invisible pain doesn’t ease when it becomes visible, but it does change something. For young people who can’t describe or express their pain, fashion is a universal way to let them know there is a community, and that they can be part of it. They can learn that others are suffering, but also that others are supporting them, and maybe they can be more open about it.
If a fashion-conscious 16-year-old sees this line and she’s experiencing symptoms, maybe she’ll be less afraid to ask questions, and more likely to understand a disease. Maybe she will become more informed about her own health or just more informed about life. Maybe she’ll jump on the CreakyJoints website and learn that arthritis can happen to anyone.
Form Meets Function
I made my activewear out of Spandex and Lycra. It’s meant to encourage people with (or without) arthritis to be active, but it’s also practical and easy to get on and off without zippers or buttons. It’s not binding, but it comfortably hugs the body. You can wear it to do yoga or wear it all day, and you can even sleep in it.
I hear a lot about people with arthritis and their problems with shoes. I like slip-ons because I don’t have to bend over or tie them, and I can wear them when my feet are swollen. But no one has solved the sneaker issues that people with arthritis face. My next project isn’t finalized yet, but I might have to address that ....
The Power of Public Revelations
Arthritis is a disease that isn’t well understood, but there are so many of us living with it. Celebrities and other high profile people who have a following can really raise awareness within a demographic. When more celebrities bring attention to arthritis, we get closer to finding a cure.
Michael Kuluva, 33, is a professional figure skater turned fashion designer, and the creative director at Tumbler and Tipsy. At age 28, he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Previously a professional ice skater, Kuluva has worked in the fashion industry for the past decade. He teamed up with advocacy group CreakyJoints for the New York Fashion Week debut of Tumbler and Tipsy’s Spring/Summer 2019 runway collection.
Video: CBD: Arthritis treatment in 30 seconds
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