Eman Rimawi puts in work. The 30-year-old Brooklynite lost her legs due to a rare blood clotting disorder last year, which for most people would be a debilitating setback. But within a few months, Rimawi was hard at work designing a clothing line for amputees, determined to create something helpful and beautiful for her newfound community. On April 14, she unveiled the clothing line, called Amped Up, during a fashion show at Black Bear Bar in Williamsburg.
Rimawi was frustrated by her difficulty getting dressed. It’s a challenge for any amputee, and especially an above-the-knee amputee like her, to put on pants. Rimawi found that it required first putting her prosthetic leg inside of the pant leg and then balancing her way into the prosthesis, fastening it on, and then buttoning the waist. She was wearing shorts most of the time, which she didn’t want to do, because wearing baggy shorts all the time didn’t reflect her personality. She missed her old clothes. So she did some research, and found, surprisingly, that nothing like what she wanted existed. Other companies that make clothes for amputees are unfashionable, and while some runway shows have featured models with disabilities, the clothes weren’t made specifically for them. Rimawi saw an opportunity: she could design stylish clothes that were easy to put on for amputees.
Amped Up, which currently only exists in prototype form, uses Velcro down the side seam of the pant leg. The pants are much simpler to put on: “You pull them up over your legs, and then fasten them on the sides, and you’re done,” Rimawi explained. She compared them to breakaway windbreaker pants, which use buttons or zippers and don’t look cool. All of Amped Up’s pants, however, look like totally regular pants. They’re marvelously seamless, thanks to the work of Sardar Ji, the tailor who worked with Rimawi on the project. During the presentation, models showed off cargo pants, relaxed-fit jeans, skinny jeans, sweatpants, and, most fashion-forwardly, ripped jeans. There are also dress pants, which weren’t shown Tuesday night.
The pieces on display were altered versions of already-existing clothes, but Rimawi said that she’s meeting with companies next month to discuss producing original pieces and making the design even better. This show was just pants, but Amped Up’s next presentation in July will feature shirts designed for and by arm amputees. Rimawi has ambitions to make Amped Up into the clothing company for amputees.
“I didn’t want any limits, and not just for myself but for other people,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that our quality of life when getting dressed was improved. This is the point of the whole thing. It’s less about me and more about all the people that I’m helping with this.”
Rimawi has long been a community organizer, and starting Amped Up has enabled her to contribute positively to her new community. She went into a deep depression when she lost her right knee last year, and credits her community work with helping lift her out of it.
“I feel completely different than how I felt last year, and it had a lot to do with me being of service to others and being there for other people through their struggle,” she said.
And the clothes are working. When her business partner Sheila Mirza, who emceed the fashion show, asked a double amputee model how he felt while wearing Amped Up’s sweatpants, he answered, “I feel like a champion.” Oddly, he was the only amputee modeling, though there were many amputees in the audience.
Amped Up is still in very early stages. If you want to contribute, text “Give” followed by the dollar amount you wish to donate to 609-879-4447. You can follow Eman Rimawi on Facebook for updates.
(Photos: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)