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Dreams Do Come True & Making Stylish Fashion More Accessible

Meet the BIG Dreamer & Believer

My name is Marisa Conners, and I am a multitalented and ambitious fashionista, fashion designer, entrepreneur, and digital artist from Cincinnati, Ohio. I have cerebral palsy which affects all my limbs and leaves me nonverbal. Cerebral Palsy is a permanent disability caused by brain damage that affects a person's ability to move, maintain balance and posture, and communicate verbally. I can walk with assistance and stand independently. I use a wheelchair for long-distance. I can't speak on my own. However, I understand everything. I rely on an iPad and an alphabetical chart to communicate. I also have been advocating for people with disabilities including me who live independently and achieve how much they can do for most of my life. I never let cerebral palsy stop me from doing what I love or following my dreams. I am hoping to share my story and how dreams can come true while amazing the world. I believe that many people don't fully understand the impact having a disability entails. Assumptions are made. I want to teach the world to focus on ABILITY, NOT DISABILITY. That phrase means that you must attempt to achieve your goals and dreams rather than your inability to do whatever you explore your skills and interests.

DREAMING BIG, FINDING PASSION, AND BELIEVING IN MY UNIQUE ABILITIES.

Every disabled person must strive to develop a dream, passion, and belief in unique abilities but it's how they can do things in different ways.

I began developing my three main interests around age 3. Firstly, I started using a computer. I would play PC games on the computer every single day. These PC games have allowed me to learn everything in a fun and educational way. My dad taught me how to use technology which renders me a master at computer and technological skills. Secondly, I started doing arts and crafts. I would draw and paint on paper. This activity has made me more capable of creating art and more confident in my artistic skills. Thirdly and lastly, I started dressing up. I would pick out cute and stylish outfits for special occasions. I ultimately chose pink as my favorite color because I have been falling in love with wearing everything pink.

These three main interests are the most particular ones in my life. One of them has eventually turned into a huge dream and passion - FASHION. I started dreaming about becoming a fashion designer at the age of 5 while I was playing fashion games on the computer. Therefore, I discovered that I have developed a strong passion for designing unique fashion and building a fashion brand. I have a strong fashion sense. Fashion is my life. Despite living with cerebral palsy, I have so many unique abilities, talents, and skills. I learned how to use Adobe graphic design software in high school. The use of digital technology is essential for me and it helped me find a creative voice. I typically use the software to create amazing arts and designs. I am a highly skilled visual learner and thinker because I have a unique gift of the ability to visualize everything through my mind. I also have an exceptional photographic memory- my head is always visualizing every single memory of my life and every single detail that creates my ideas. My other unique talents I possess are social media skills, organizing things, excellent communication skills, and advanced digital technology skills. Those are extraordinary gifts that are unlike others.

The Importance of Inclusive Fashion - Making Stylish Fashion More Accessible

I launched my namesake fashion brand, Marisa Conners in April 2021, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The brand represents my fashionista style and outgoing personality that draws inspiration from vintage, girly-girl, and chic-casual fashion. It is designed for not only stylish women but those who have physical disabilities.

This is quite an inclusive and unique fashion brand. It's not only an adaptive clothing line but anybody should be able to wear something special and fabulous without difficulty. That's called "Making Stylish Fashion More Accessible". Inspired by the stylish fashion popularized by designers, Michael Kors and Kate Spade, I want to create stylish garments for everyone, not just for those with physical impairments. But, my main focus was on making sure my designs could truly be sensible options for anyone. Through my website, a person can customize the garments based on traditional options like size but also personalizes them around their specific needs. For example, a customer chooses between Velcro, magnetic closure, and no closure that can be adapted for the garment. Anyone could and is welcome to purchase my customized designs, whether or not they have a disability. Individuals with disabilities should be able to wear whatever they feel comfortable with but not have to sacrifice the quality of clothing.

HUGE SUCCESS

Shortly before launching my fashion brand, I got an amazing opportunity to attend the launch party of the new reality fashion show called The Collective. Fashion experts from reality fashion competitions praised my fashion talents and style by showing them my portfolio. It was an absolute dream I was able to meet designers and other fashion enthusiasts. However, The Collective was canceled due to the unexpected cancer diagnosis of the founder and designer.

At the launch of my fashion brand, I participated in the inclusive fashion show, the 2nd Acceptance Week Fashion Show with my first adaptive clothing collection at Harrison High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. The fashion show was organized by my friend and Acceptance Week Creator, Raileigh Legner. The stars aligned in 2020 when I met Raileigh who created Acceptance Week. The annual event aims to change how students and the community perceive people with disabilities. Our reason for the fashion show is that we wanted to help people with disabilities rock the runway. The theme for the fashion show was yellow. I used that color to create an amazing adaptive clothing collection. I finally came to the stage and stunned the audience by wearing one of my collection looks, Daisy Yellow Floral Dress which is inspired by the 1960s as I stood up from my wheelchair. This dress has a full magnetic back closure instead of a zipper. This was the best moment I ever experienced! I began selling my first dress six months later and it was sold out in 33 days. The moment has melted my heart.

In May 2022, I debuted my second collection, “Salem’s Modern Swinging Sixties” at the 3rd Acceptance Week Fashion Show. For the collection, I found inspiration from my maternal family and it reflects what they wore in the 1960s. The collection consists of three elegant dresses with different silhouettes Two looks, Mabel Pinky Shift Dress (Pale pink) and Gloria Mary Empire Waist Dress (Virgin Blue), even named after my grandmother and aunt respectively. And I wore my third and final look, a Roselle Blush Glitter Sheath Dress. This dress is the modernized version of the 1960s sleeveless sheath dress and it has a lot of pink and glitter. And sparkle yourself in the mirror. I rocked the runway wearing that dress. All three dresses from Salem’s Modern Swinging Sixties are available on my website with customizable sizes and closures. I also created a signature color palette, Wisteria, a combination of bright pink and green and I’m selling a lightweight shirt in those colors, Wisteria Stripe Long Sleeve Tee.

HOW CAN I WORK AS A FASHION DESIGNER AND BUSINESSWOMAN?

Having cerebral palsy doesn't stop me from creating my designs. I have developed my own design process for my fashion business. I typically use Adobe graphic design software to create my designs. For creating a design, I can browse the garment template, make color palettes, use images/elements from web and cloud files, and draw basic details in the garment. I also add patternmaking details via text. I can’t sew or pattern anything due to my disability. However, I rely on a team to construct the garments and get them ready for the runway or for sale. Once I have a design, I can purchase fabrics and materials online. I understood how the fabric is made. I also can upload my own prints on fabric on the digital fabric printing website and they can ship them. I also can touch fabrics. This will make me feel like choosing the right fabric to create a garment through my visual mind. Mainly, I can build a perfect team to help me run my business and communicate with my employees so that they can understand how I can give tasks to them and how I develop specific aspects of garment construction like brainstorming ideas and choosing the right fabrics. All I want is to lead the perfect team to help my dreams come to life and I have the best possibility of making my business successful in the future.

INSPIRING OTHERS

Along with disability come obstacles. Disability + Obstacles = Strength!! Besides wanting to be a fashion designer and entrepreneur, I always had the desire to be a role model and motivational speaker. Even though I am nonverbal, I can speak by leading by example. I want disabled individuals to know they have strengths and dreams like “normal” people. Dreams do come true!! It is the responsibility of all humans to recognize the strengths in others and to find a place in society for these strengths to shine. I truly believe in my extraordinary abilities, talents, and passions. From a very young age, I was teaching myself reading, drawing, and designing for my dream career. It's very important for me to share my story with you. I want to speak up to encourage you to make your dreams come true.

I am a big dreamer and believer. I refuse to let my cerebral palsy define me as a person but it's a part of my story because I am never going to be afraid of following my dreams. I always strive to inspire others to achieve their dreams and goals even if they have physical or other limitations. I have so much hope to further promote inclusion in the fashion industry and other specific places that belong to me. Thank you for reading this article. I continue embarking on my unforgettable and groundbreaking journey to become a successful entrepreneur and motivational speaker. Dreams Do Come True! Check out my website marisaconners.com Facebook/Instagram: @marisaconners.fashionista & Designer Brand @marisaconners.mc

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I am a visionary, talented, and ambitious fashionista, designer, entrepreneur, speaker, and advocate. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I have Cerebral Palsy which causes me to act and look differently. I am also nonverbal and hard of hearing. I proved that “Being nonverbal doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say.” I communicate through my iPad. I am particularly passionate about fashion, graphic design/art, travel, business, and digital technology. I also have a special interest in custom adaptive clothing which is designed for people with disabilities. My CP never stopped me from doing what I love and following my dreams. Dreams Do Come True! ✨💕

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Marisa Conners

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