Guest blogger Koti is easily one of the most stylish guys in the IZ community. Based in Seattle, he candidly shares his experience of becoming a wheelchair user and his relationship with fashion.
"In my career as a performing, studio musician based in Seattle, I always had to put some thought into clothes. They had to be functional and do well under stage lights, yet still be durable and hard-wearing during setup and tear down at shows. But I can't lie; I like clothes anyway. In the summer of 2007 on a sunny Saturday afternoon in July, I went for a drive in my newly restored 1973 Datsun 240Z; I had just spent six months fixing it up. I was stopped at a red light on an on-ramp when I was suddenly, violently struck from behind by another car traveling near freeway speeds.
In the emergency room, I was given a diagnosis of a complete spinal cord injury (C4 Tetraplegia). I was paralyzed, and had lost all sensation and independent movement below my shoulders. Later, after spinal shock subsided, I regained limited movement and sensation in my arms and hands. My music career was over.
Before the accident, I had always enjoyed making light modifications to my clothes by hand or sewing machine, but as I transitioned out of rehab some months later my clothing choices had to be solely about function. As a full time wheelchair user it was difficult to find any "regular" clothes that looked right on my seated form, and all of the adaptive clothing I found online made me look like an old man. I had to buy much larger, ill-fitting pants and shirts just to avoid dangerous pressure on my skin from tightness in the hips, crotch, or seat that could cut off circulation. Even sitting on buttons, rivets, seams, pockets, and wrinkles could cause pressure and damage which I would be unable to sense. When looking for clothing I also had to think about whether my personal care assistants would be able to easily dress my lower body and have access to my ankle area throughout the day. Taking all of these practical considerations together as a whole meant I could only dream about clothes that would fit well, be safe for me to sit in all day, AND still look great...
I had all but given up on my search when suddenly, early last year I discovered IZ. I was so excited by what I saw! I was suspicious though, and kept my eyes peeled for signs that there might be "a catch". Still, I searched through the online store, and (hesitantly) placed an order. Now, I sit here happily typing away in a pair of grey Straight Leg Jeans (with a bit of elasticity, perfectly safe for my skin), a T-shirt (VERY stretchy, and easy for me to put on despite having limited strength in my arms), and the blue Peacoat that looks super sharp, and fits great! The last item has been particularly sweet because my old pea coat was a staple in my wardrobe here in Rain City. I thought I would never be able to wear one again
Koti has a website at www.kotihu.com where you can find links to download his music.