Transforming Lives Through Transformer Clothing

You can tell there’s a long-term economic slump when fashion designers come up with coats that can also serve as sleeping bags.

Enter “transformer clothing,” a sort of nitty-gritty take on the indoor Snuggie, but with a much greater and nobler purpose in mind: outdoor use and protection for the poor and homeless.

The coats are the idea of a student industrial designer from Detroit, Veronika Scott, who founded the non-profit start-up called The Empowerment Plan.

Based in Detroit, it’s a humanitarian project centered on a coat that is self-heated, waterproof, and transforms into a sleeping bag at night. The coat is made by a group of homeless women who are paid to learn and to produce the coats for those living on the streets. “The focus is on the system to create jobs for those that desire them and coats for those that need them at no cost,” The Empowerment Plan says on its website. “The importance is not with the product but with the people.”

The location is apt and the need is great—about 20,000 Detroiters are homeless and the city’s shelters are overwhelmed and under-supported.

The coat’s inner layer is made of Thinsulate and Steelcase fabric to help store body heat. It also turns into an over-the-shoulder bag with storage in the arm sockets. The clever design recently won an International Design prize.

To date 275 coats have been made and 100 of them were given to homeless people in Detroit. Two were donated to Occupy Wall Street supporters in New York this past winter.

“There are many reasons why people are homeless, but I could see one thing all of them needed: warmth,” Scott, 22, said in a recent New York Times story.

She adds that to raise revenue she wants to sell the coats to individuals who can afford them — anyone purchasing the coat will also get a second one that can be sent to various shelters and charities anywhere in the world.

An inspired and inspiring story, but also depressing when contrasted with the magnitude of the problem and the inability of those in charge at the local, state and federal level to care for those most in need.

[Image credit: MPWR Coat by The Empowerment Plan via Flickr cc]

writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by

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