Helping Redefine the Hospital Gown: A Parsons student & Care+Wear intern's Story
Our incredible intern, Irene Lu, shares her experiences working on the Parsons Project and at Care+Wear and how these introduced new approaches to design and patient understanding.
At Parsons we take a variety of courses designed to teach us about pattern making, history of fashion, styles and much more to help prepare us for our professional paths. However, it is not every day that you take a course that can have an impact on millions of lives and transform ways of thinking. Parsons encourages its students to use “systems-thinking”: designing after examining the entire garment life-cycle, from its creation, to its disposal. This past year, I had the opportunity to take a course that would show me the value of this approach and introduce me to a company that incorporates systems-thinking to disrupt an entire industry: Care+Wear.
The Parsons x Care+Wear class, focused on redesigning the traditional patient gown, was eye-opening and challenging. A hospital gown is a user-based product; not only do you need to understand the gown itself inside and out, but all who would come in contact with it. The course demanded a systems-thinking approach to design: considering everyone in the system, from the people who make the gowns, the people who use them, the people who treat those who use them, to the people who clean them, and beyond.
Looking at all of the elements connected to this one, meaningful product really opened my eyes and made me realize the impact an article of clothing can have on a patient’s experience at the hospital. For example, what may seem like a small difference in the gown’s design can actually significantly help people with different physical and mental needs. The course showed me the importance of talking and collaborating with patients and doctors themselves in order to truly understand what they needed and wanted in a gown. My overall experience with my fellow Parsons classmates and teachers, Care+Wear, and other collaborators was transformative; it was really wonderful to work with such fantastic individuals to address a real-life problem that fashion had to power to impact.
When I received the opportunity to work with Care+Wear in the summer of 2017, I was excited, but also overwhelmed by the idea that this product was actually coming to life and that we would be bringing it to market in just a matter of months. My time at Care+Wear involved working on multiple upcoming products, while also continuing the finalization of the patient gown to prepare it for production. I worked on the designs with Care+Wear’s Head of Product, Rachel Sax Ramos, and was lucky to benefit not just from her design experience at Ralph Lauren and overall mentorship, but also propose ideas that actually had a chance of being developed into future Care+Wear products. My favorite thing about my experience was the feeling that I was truly part of the Care+Wear team. Right when I walked into the office on the first day, I was welcomed with warm smiles and playful jokes - it felt just like family.
This internship also gave me a holistic perspective of how a fast-growing business is run. In addition to supporting the design team I was able to contribute to other parts of the company’s operations, from creating new graphic designs, to working on packaging and even helping with inventory.
My overall experience working with Care+Wear was overwhelmingly positive; the company is very progressive and has a laser focus on making a positive impact. It was really fascinating to see how their systems-thinking approach has started to bring more accountability to the healthcare industry by showing the importance of bringing patients, clinicians and designers together to create healthwear products. This is exactly what we need in the design world right now; design should be directed towards collaboration and solving real day-to-day issues for those who need it in an efficient and innovative way. I am excited to see where the company goes in the future and will never forget my experience working with the team.
Thank you Care+Wear Team!!!
Irene Lu is a senior in Fashion Design at the Parsons School of Design at The New School.