Detroit might go down in history as the most determined city in the U.S. After an economic bust left the city with a dwindling population and a dismal outlook, the only news coming out of the northern capital was decidedly gloomy; now, Detroit is flush with positive stories of creative rejuvenation. Designer Veronika Scott is among the citizens looking for ways to get Detroit back on track. Scott noticed that many of Detroit’s homeless opted to sleep in the streets rather than shelters due to a desire for privacy or mental health issues. “There are many reasons why people are homeless, but I could see one thing all of them needed: warmth,” Scott told The New York Times.
Through designing a heavy duty coat that converts into a sleeping bag, Scott hopes to keep people warm in the subzero Detroit winter. The result of a product design class at the College for Creative Studies, the coat has gone on to win awards, even attracting the interest of the Red Cross. Now known as the Crazy Coat Lady, Scott started the Empowerment Plan, working with local businesses and teaching homeless employees how to sew the convertible coats. Through this small-scale effort, Scott is clothing hundreds and helping Detroit’s homeless make the money needed to start over again.
Scott’s coat is a reminder that designers are at their best when they think locally. There is no better way to enact meaningful change than by addressing the problems within your community.
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.