Framingham State Fashion Design Class of 2007 alum Keisha Greaves returned to campus Wednesday, March 4 to give a presentation on her clothing brand, “Girls Chronically Rock.”
Greaves is also a motivational speaker and Massachusetts State Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. She worked with Massachusetts Gov.Charlie Baker to officially declare Sept. 30th Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy Awareness Day.
Greaves began her presentation by transporting the audience back to her time as a student at FSU.
“I always had a passion for fashion and I knew I always wanted to be a fashion designer,” she said.
At the time, Greaves was not yet diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. She did not experience any symptoms of MD until she was pursuing her master’s of business degree at Cambridge College.
Greaves’ first symptom of MD was her leg gave out repeatedly. Her mother decided it was time for her to see a doctor. She went to an orthopedic doctor at Tufts Medical Center.
“Two doctors came in, they kind of just looked at me, examined me, they were like, ‘Can you raise your right leg?’ And my right leg would not go up. It was just stand still. It would not move,” she said.
Greaves said she didn’t think much of this, and thought maybe she just needed physical therapy. However, the orthopedic specialist suggested she see a neurologist.
After a long series of tests, the neurologist determined that Greaves had Muscular Dystrophy. She explained that initially, she was in denial of the diagnosis.
“As time went on, it did progress. When I did go on job interviews with my cane, I would tell them I sprained my ankle or I was in a car accident, instead of just saying I had Muscular Dystrophy. So that’s how much in denial I was,” Greaves said.
She told the audience that it ultimately took her about two years to accept the reality of her diagnosis. It wasn’t until Greaves wrote her first blog post that she truly understood she had MD. The truth of having MD didn’t completely resonate with Greaves until she started telling her story and said out loud that she had Muscular Dystrophy.
“It took some time to get out of denial, but I thought, ‘You know what? It’s time to get my dreams and my passion for fashion back into work and start my own business,” she said.
Greaves said she is a true believer of everything happening for a reason, so she decided to incorporate her story into her clothing business.
And thus, “Girls Chronically Rock” was born.
Greaves said she knew she wanted the word “chronic” in her brand name to bring awareness to people living with chronic illness.
“Girls Chronically Rock” is currently a T-shirt brand, but Greaves said she has big plans for the future of her line.
“My goal is to have ultimately a ‘Girls Chronically Rock’ adaptive clothing collection for people with disabilities – it will make it easier for us to get dressed on a regular basis,” she said.
Greaves explained that when she was able-bodied, she never thought of the difficulties people in wheelchairs face while simply getting dressed.
Greaves showed the audience some of the T-shirts in her collection. She also displayed some Tommy Hilfiger pieces from his adaptive clothing line.
Hilfiger’s line includes a jacket with a magnetic zipper, and T-shirts with magnetic snaps on the shoulders. This makes pulling on a shirt significantly easier and less time consuming for people living with disabilities. Greaves showed the audience T-shirts for “Girls Chronically Rock” with similar designs that use magnets and Velcro to simplify the process of getting dressed for people with disabilities.
In regard to the future of the “Girls Chronically Rock” brand, Greaves said she has big goals.
“I plan to hopefully get ‘Girls Chronically Rock’ into major department stores, such as Macy’s, Target … and hopefully some more fashion weeks like New York Fashion Week, LA Fashion Week. I would also like to come up with a ‘Girls Chronically Rock’ Adaptive clothing line, and my goal is to hopefully collaborate with fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, since he now has an adaptive clothing line,” Greaves said.
In addition to her fashion dreams, Greaves said one of her goals is to be on “The Ellen Degeneres Show.”
After Greaves shared her personal story, current Fashion Design and Retailing students displayed adaptive pieces made in a fall 2019 Specialized Design class. Students constructed designs with Velcro and magnetic openings, as well as elastic and stretch fabric to make the garments more adaptive.
Greaves said this assignment was beneficial to design students because when she was a student, she wasn’t thinking about adaptive clothing. Greaves referenced companies such as Target, Zappos, and her favorite, Tommy Hilfiger, have released adaptive clothing lines. She said with adaptive clothing on the rise, this is something students may want to consider as they graduate and enter the fashion industry.
Keisha Greaves still writes for her blog, GIRLSCHRONICALLYROCK.BLOG and her clothing brand is available online at Girlschronicallyrock.com.