create / 2019

L'Atelier LA -Experience Fashionclusion

L'Atelier LA -Experience Fashionclusion

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Circle of Friends- The Path to Inclusion, a project of Community Partners

L’Atelier LA provides a creative outlet and career exploration for youth marginalized by disability or adversity. Inspired by “Project Runway,” inclusive teams face challenges like: Expressing yourself and your dreams though your look, repurposing material for affordable, ecological fashion, and creating adaptive clothing for people of all abilities. L’Atelier will culminate with an amazing runway show and documentary planned, designed and modeled and filmed by students of all abilities.


What does your organization do?

Providing inclusive opportunities for people of all abilities to work and learn together builds leadership and compassion, creating stronger communities

where everyone is valued and has a voice.

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

  • Mother Road Studios

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

Circle of Friends (CoF) started in 1999 at Santa Monica HS to decrease the segregation and isolation of students in Special Education when a parent asked teachers to help her son make friends. Through weekly lunches and activities for students of with and without disabilities, CoF evolved into a student-led movement that builds awareness, acceptance and advocacy for people who behave or communicate differently. CoF Alumni kept in touch with their friends beyond high school, created inclusion clubs at college, and became successful educators, therapists and entrepreneurs. In 2009, CoF added a summer program, Circle Summer, to strengthen social skills and independence for high school students with disabilities who couldn’t attend camp. They were paired with college-age peers in the Santa Monica area, near our original campus.

Mother Road Studios (MRS), a B-Corp or public benefit corporation, is a fully-inclusive Production Studio that develops art to empower, educate and entertain.

Co-founder, Christina Cannarella, has been an advocate for inclusion for over two decades. She fought to have her son with disabilities attend his home school in LAUSD, Taft HS. In 2004, teachers at Taft developed an inclusive, student-run fashion project. Christina’s son participated, and she created a docuseries of the program. Her experience with the fashion show and filming became the inspiration for MRS.

We have found that education systems designed to support independent living and workforce development operate in isolation and segregate resources. This is a lost opportunity for students of all abilities to learn and achieve together, preparing them for a more inclusive workforce.

The US Census Bureau reports that 1 in 5 Americans are living with a disability. Only 47% are employed, compared to 89% of the general population. The Valuable 500 recently launched to identify and promote companies working to address this inequity.

Circle of Friends and Mother Road Studios were inspired to link Circle Summer with their inclusive project-based film and fashion program to create a model that will engage students, and break down barriers while building crucial life skills and preparing them for future careers.

Which of the create metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Employment in the creative industries
  • Arts establishments per capita
  • Percentage of graduates from local higher education institutions that remain in LA County 5 years after graduating

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • San Fernando Valley

How will your project make LA the best place to create?

With project L’Atelier LA, Circle of Friends (“CoF”) and Mother Road Studios (“MRS”) will bring 45 students aged 15-22, with and without disabilities, together to plan and create an inclusive fashion show. Under the guidance of an award-winning Career Technical Education teacher with 15 years’ fashion industry experience, participants will collaborate on fashion, from design and creation to accessories. In addition, MRS will teach a group of students how to document (via film, edit and production) the challenges and personal struggles the fashion and event teams face and overcome as they learn and create together. Tasks and responsibilities will be tailored to ensure that all participants truly contribute, and all projects are organized and led by students!

Our program begins with a pencil art project, “What’s Your Gift?” to help students focus on their strengths as they get to know each other. They’ll learn the history of fashion and how it is influenced by culture, power and function. Fieldtrips to the FIDM Museum, local thrift stores, and visits from industry mentors and former students will provide inspiration as students create personal design portfolios. Teams will be given two challenges that require teamwork, communication and problem-solving: using repurposed materials and designing a line of adaptive clothing for people with disabilities. Projects will culminate with a fashion show and the powerful revelations and stories of personal growth and group achievement documented by the MRS team.

Through this project, students will gain acceptance and appreciation for others’ challenges and talents, while also developing 21st century skills like critical-thinking, collaboration, digital technology, and creativity that will prepare them for future careers in the fashion and film industries.

L’Atelier LA is a place to CREATE that will help young people realize their unique vision, diversity, and entrepreneurial spirit. Circle of Friends and Mother Road Studios will model a successful collaboration between career tech and special education programs. We will use the documentary to promote a model that can be adapted for communities throughout the city, L’Atelier LA- creating a stronger, more inclusive LA in 2050.

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Pilot project (testing a new idea on a small scale to prove feasibility)

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

L’Atelier LA’s goals is to change attitudes, model behavior, and promote inclusion, positively impacting student development. We will measure progress in these goals through the following:

  • Pre and post assessment of skills like motivation, self-regulation, and emotional intelligence using instruments developed by CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning.

  • Weekly video diaries in which participants will share insights and progress

  • Completed project portfolios

  • Mock interviews for each project team with volunteers from the industry.

  • Audience discussions after the fashion show and subsequent viewings of the documentary to build new multidisciplinary collaboratives and explore future L’Atelier LA projects.