‘For people with arthritis, it is all about accessibility and comfort,’ says Michael Kulava, who lives with rheumatoid arthritis himself and will be taking part in New York Fashion Week.

A world-class fashion designer brings attention to the painful ailment at the New York fashion stage.   

Kuvula also struggles with rheumatoid arthritis, but he does not let it affect him or discourage him. The autoimmune disease affects mostly the joints and can be very uncomfortable, something that Kuvula knows all too well.

“I was diagnosed 12 years ago and I didn’t really know what to expect,” the 37-year-old said. “It has been a tough road at times, but you learn to live with and deal with all that it comes with.”

Kuluva also took his love for fashion design and used it not only to raise awareness about arthritis but also to support those suffering from it. 

The simulated Newest Normal event will debut at 8 p.m. on Sept. 16, during New York Fashion Week. On the website of the Virtual Fashion Show, and YouTube.

Kuvula needed to film his show with models and a crew, but during COVID times that was tricky. “I was supposed to get back to the States, but obviously international travel couldn’t happen. We filmed it here in downtown Barrie with local models and very few people in order to follow COVID protocol,” Kuvula said. “It was a very unique event and makes you realize that when you want to accomplish your goals, you can find a way.”

Kuluva has been a part of New York Fashion Week for the last 11 seasons and will be a prominent figure in the 2020 edition. This year’s collection from the designer is titled Tumbler and Tipsy and includes clothes that are arthritis-friendly.

“For people with arthritis, it is all about accessibility and comfort. Buttons are no good, so I’ve altered that a bit with zippers, straps and other easy-to-wear items,” Kuluva said. “We know how to live with the discomfort, but we shouldn’t have to let it stop us from getting out there and wearing what we want.”

This year’s Kuluva series is described as “deliberately sassy” and also contains hand-painted, glow-in-the-dark details thoughtfully positioned to highlight where pain is experienced by people living with arthritis.

“It is fun, obviously, but it also highlights the pains that we experience that many don’t know we have. Glowing over the joints and other spots that experience pain is a justa way to bring awareness to arthritis,” said Kuluva.