Making a Difference: Karen Bowersox and Downs Designs
Karen Bowersox and Downs Designs
If Necessity is the “Mother of Invention”, perhaps adversity can be the “Grandmother of Invention”, so to speak. In this case, adversity led to a pathway for greater things. It can also be a motivating factor in someone’s life that leads them in a new direction with a renewed sense of purpose. This was exactly the case when Karen Bowersox accepted a “challenge” from her daughter.
Karen has been happily married to her husband, Dr. Harold Bowersox, for 25 years. She was running his medical practice and was a proud wife, mother and grandmother. Ten years ago, her granddaughter, Maggie, was born with Down syndrome and when Maggie turned 4, Karen’s daughter (Maggie’s Mom) challenged her to start a clothing line for people with Down syndrome. So, Karen went home and simply thought she would buy Maggie something online. She came up empty handed with her searches. That was the beginning of a journey that would change her life and the lives of so many others as well. So, what does one do if you have absolutely no background in the clothing industry? How do you go about undertaking the challenge of starting a clothing company? For Karen, she reached out to her local design school for advice. They suggested that she hire a designer and gave her the name of a young graduate named Jillian. She and Karen have been working together ever since and in 2010, Downs Designs® was born.
Karen explains, “We found models to use to design our jeans and now have created 18 styles from toddlers to adults. We worked with our models for months on end and learned about their special needs in clothing. We started with jeans and designed our jeans to solve so many of the dressing challenges they face. In fact, one of the biggest challenges we noticed early on was how they don’t like to wear their clothes around their waists. They push everything under their tummies, leaving pants often hanging low in the crotch and then exposing their backsides. We resolved this problem with a style we created called our ‘dip downs’. They sit low under the tummy but completely cover their bottoms in the back”.
As with any endeavor, you learn more about the industry and the needs of the clients you serve. Karen understands this and continued to explain, “people with Down syndrome may have difficulty with fine motor skills, so all our jeans have an elastic waistband, no button, zipper or tag and the denim is soft and stretchy, making them easy to pull up and down independently. Individuals with Down syndrome also have a shorter femur so our custom designed jeans are tapered properly to fit their unique body shape. Due to their shorter inseams, each pair is hemmed to order. We offer a home ‘try-on’ service with every new customer, giving them the opportunity to try them on in the privacy of their own homes and making sure they get the perfect fit every time”.
Pretty close is not close enough
Karen’s company receives daily emails, texts, phone calls and letters from customers thanking them for changing and improving the lives of so many by the clothing the company makes. As Karen sums up, “Words can’t describe the rewarding feeling you get when you know you are making a difference in someone’s life. Who would have thought that just a pair of jeans could be so important to someone? All that we’ve learned from our customers makes us want to do more to help them. There is so much work left to be done, and we can’t wait to see where this journey will take us”.
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