Senior Wins Internship with Designs for Inclusive Adaptive Fashion

Headshot of a female against a bright blue background.
Ally Thomasson

One UA senior is using her design skills to trailblaze a path in the field of adaptive fashion in a nationally competitive internship.

Ally Thomasson, a senior double major – BFA (graphic design) and Spanish – accepted a competitive, 11-week internship at the “ZxLerator,” an internal incubator of projects for Anheuser Busch’s ZX Ventures this summer. ZxLerator staff work with undergraduate and MBA interns to test, validate and pitch product ideas to internal investors for funding.

After the initial application process, Thomasson was named one of the 75 finalists for the internship, one of only eight undergraduates among MBA and masters students. She attended the Dream Bigger Summit in New York where she interviewed with ZX Ventures company executives and pitched her design ideas. For her interview, she described a problem she felt passionate about solving and produced a creative brief, a market analysis, and a potential solution to the problem to demonstrate her process. The problem Thomasson chose was the lack of designs for products that took the needs of visually impaired people into consideration.

“Something came to really bother me,” Thomasson explained. “Adaptive fashion currently doesn’t address the difficulties for persons with blindness or color-blindness in getting dressed,” Thomasson explained, “I started researching this more and have been working to develop a solution.”

Student hanging artwork in a gallery.
Ally Thomasson hanging her artwork for the Annual Scholarship Exhibition, Sella-Granata Art Gallery, Feb. 2020.

Adaptive fashion includes not only designing clothing for people with special needs, but also designing space and products so that people with a wide variety of disabilities can make easy use of clothing, dressing themselves, choosing colors, and storing clothes, among other things that many able-bodied people take for granted. Thomasson said she could find no companies or products that addressed the needs of the visually impaired and decided to focus on the area of inclusive design having to do with color blindness.

To help with this project, Thomasson also applied for an on-campus grant through the Levitetz Seed Grant Initiative program of New College. For this grant, she will be competing in at least two pitch competitions to try to receive funding for her ideas. The Levitetz Seed Grant competition will also help her hone her skills for pitching ideas during the ZxLerator internship.

When we spoke to Thomasson in April, she told us that the Levitetz competition is temporarily on hold, and that her internship, which begins in June, is still on. She’ll find out later whether it will be in person or online, due to health precautions because of the COVID-19 virus.

a group of award winners smiling.
Ally Thomasson (top, center) won a student Gold ADDY Award for promotional design at the 2020 AAF Tuscaloosa ADDY Awards.

Thomasson is in the University Fellows Program at UA, and has spent time designing community spaces in Marion in Perry County, Ala., where she was in charge of designing a mural that depicted places around the town that the community was proud of. “I am a firm believer that creating beautiful and meaningful spaces can be very uplifting and inspire a sense of pride in community members, so working on this project was very meaningful to me.”

“Most of what I have learned through the Fellows program has been about empowering underserved and minority communities and cultivating empathy and community.” Her passion for learning abroad took her to Cusco, Peru, one summer. “It is the reason I am now double majoring in graphic design and Spanish,” Thomasson explained. She wanted, she said, “to learn more about the culture and community, the successes and impacts of different sociopolitical projects both internally and from foreign involvement, and hopefully to learn and be humbled in a new space by new people.”

“I think these are the biggest passion points I bring to every situation, and ultimately why I landed at inclusive design in the first place.”

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in art history and studio art, visit our Degree Programs page.