Designing help for the homeless

Southern Institute of Technology fashion student Simon Edwards demonstrates his prototype of a man's coat/sleeping bag he has designed for the homeless.

INVERCARGILL fashion student Simon Edwards knows better than most what those living rough need.

The former homeless man, now Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) fashion student, has developed a prototype for a jacket designed specifically for the needs of the homeless.

“It’s not about becoming rich and famous. It’s about providing a product so our people are strong,” he said.

His design incorporates a man’s waterproof coat to provide protection from the cold and rain with a sleeping bag and carry bag, reducing the amount of gear the homeless has to carry.

Keeping warm and having protection from the weather were among the biggest challenges for those living on the street, he said.

“If you are warm, you can physically make it to an institution or homeless organisation, you’re thinking well, you’re positive.”

Mr Edwards’ fashion tutor, Ramari Paul, said he had injected his own passion into the project and turned it into a real world project.

“Not only is he developing research skills, design skills, pattern drafting and sewing skills, he is making something meaningful to him that he hopes will change his community.”

Originally from Taranaki, Mr Edwards became homeless on the streets of Brisbane for three years after a relationship break up.

He “fell into fashion” and his life started to turn around when he was staying at a homeless shelter and the staff ncouraged him to create and sell screen-printed T-shirts, he said.

He found the SIT fashion course online while in Australia, got a job, saved some money and returned to New Zealand in 2015.

And he now wants to help New Zealand’s homeless.

“[With the housing issues in New Zealand] our homeless numbers are going to skyrocket very soon if they haven’t already.

“And that’s where I like to see myself and my jacket and where I am coming from to actually put a dent in that somewhere.”

He intended to apply for scholarships for funding to buy a sewing machine and ultimately produce the jacket on a large scale, as well as develop clothing specifically tailored to the needs of people with physical disabilities, he said.

“I want to raise awareness about the marginalisation and oppression towards the homeless and people with disability.”

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