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Local fashion designer unveiling new line of arthritis-friendly clothing

'For people with arthritis, it is all about accessibility and comfort,' says Michael Kulava, who lives with rheumatoid arthritis himself and will be taking part in New York Fashion Week

A world-class fashion designer, who now lives locally, is helping those suffering from a painful ailment by bringing awareness to the New York stage.

Michael Kuluva is a fashion designer who has travelled the world and now calls Barrie home. Kuvula also lives with rheumatoid arthritis, but he doesn’t let it define or hinder him. The autoimmune disorder primarily affects joints and can be very painful, something Kuvula knows all too well.

“I was diagnosed 12 years ago and I didn’t really know what to expect,” the 37-year-old said. “It has been a tough road at times, but you learn to live with and deal with all that it comes with.”

Kuluva has even taken his passion for fashion design and used it to not only bring awareness to arthritis, but also help those who suffer from it.

The Newest Normal virtual event will premiere during New York Fashion Week on Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. on the Virtual Fashion Show website and on YouTube

Kuvula needed to film his show with models and a crew, but during COVID times that was tricky.

“I was supposed to get back to the States, but obviously international travel couldn’t happen. We filmed it here in downtown Barrie with local models and very few people in order to follow COVID protocol,” Kuvula said. “It was a very unique event and makes you realize that when you want to accomplish your goals, you can find a way.”

Kuluva has been a part of New York Fashion Week for the last 11 seasons and will be a prominent figure in the 2020 edition. This year’s collection from the designer is titled Tumbler and Tipsy and includes clothes that are arthritis-friendly.

“For people with arthritis, it is all about accessibility and comfort. Buttons are no good, so I’ve altered that a bit with zippers, straps and other easy-to-wear items,” Kuluva said. “We know how to live with the discomfort, but we shouldn't have to let it stop us from getting out there and wearing what we want.”

This year’s Kuluva collection is being described as “deliberately sassy” and also includes hand-painted, glow-in-the-dark details thoughtfully placed to emphasize where people living with arthritis experience pain.

“It is fun, obviously, but it also highlights the pains that we experience that many don’t know we have. Glowing over the joints and other spots that experience pain is a justa way to bring awareness to arthritis,” said Kuluva.

Kuluva has travelled all over the world and in what he called, the “different realms” of New York, Los Angeles and Europe.

For the last four years, he has called Barrie home with his partner and enjoys everything about the region, even dedicating a line of clothes to it.

“Barrie is wonderful and the whole area is beautiful. I’d obviously been to Toronto before and being in Barrie is even so close to Muskoka,” said Kuluva. “I have a Tipsy line of clothes for Muskoka, Toronto and the Canadian feel.”

For more on Kuvula and his work, click here to see his website.

Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
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