Dana makes men’s shorts more fun and inclusive
There is an old saying, every man puts his pants on, one leg at a time.
But one leg at time can be a real challenge when you have a mobility issue, or need to be somewhere in a hurry.
Bermudian fashion designer Dana Cooper started thinking about this last year, when her athlete friend broke his leg.
“He had a cast on up to his hip,” said the owner of Dana Cooper Designs. “It hindered his whole life. He kept complaining that he wanted to wear a pair of Bermuda shorts, but he couldn’t get the pant leg on. We couldn’t find anything in the stores, or online that was appropriate, or in his style.”
So she helped him cut up his clothing so that he could wear some of his favourite outfits. A lightbulb went off in her mind.
"The idea came to me that there may be a market for adaptive shorts in Bermuda colours and prints,“ she said. ”Why not design a pair of shorts that could adapt to any number of circumstances such as an athlete, sailor or fisherman who needs to get out of shorts quickly and into the water fast.”
Back in 2009, she had shown a collection of men’s board shorts at the annual Bermuda Fashion Collective at the Bermuda Society of Arts Gallery at City Hall in Hamilton.
The shorts were well received, but after the show her focus shifted to other projects, and she put them on the back burner.
The first Covid-19 lockdown in April 2020 was a real time of reflection for her. Until the pandemic erupted things were going great for her.
In New York City, a fashion start-up had just asked her to design their summer print collection for their clothing. And in Palm Beach, Florida, her beach wraps were selling so well, she was about to expand her presence there.
“Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and everything came to a stop,” she said.
She caught the last flight home to Bermuda.
After making masks for everyone she knew, she started thinking about everything she had been doing for the past ten years. She decided she needed a deeper purpose. Her injured friend’s wardrobe issues showed her a way forward.
“I was thinking maybe I could turn my line into something that is more inclusive,” she said.
So she designed a pair of shorts that could be removed, quickly, by opening a Velcro strip running down the length of the leg. She created two different types of high performance active wear shorts. Her Reef Runners are men’s swim trunks featuring her signature prints. They are made from a micro fibre spandex, moisture wicking, fabric.
Her Breakers are cotton men’s shorts in different colours. They aim to provide freedom of movement and a comfort waistband. All of her shorts have the breakaway Velcro down the side.
She hopes the shorts will appeal to people who have mobility issues, and also to people in sport who need to make quick wardrobe changes.
“It might work for swimmers who want to stay warm off of the side of the pool,” she said. “They want a quick pair of shorts to put on, and can break them away when they are about to go in the water.”
Ms Cooper said there are adaptable shorts on the market, but they have a hospital feel to them. Hers come in fun, tropical colours and styles and in a variety of lightweight fabrics that are ideal for Bermuda’s hot, humid climate.
An occupational therapist vetted her shorts.
“I had her try the pants on all different types of people,” Ms Cooper said. “She tried it on a person who had a stroke, and another person who had dementia.”
Ms Cooper got the thumbs up from the therapist and her clients.
“The therapist said when people have injuries or situations where they can not dress themselves, the family will say, oh, he loved this colour,” Ms Cooper said. “Those were his favourite shorts. It is about the person keeping their dignity, and being able to put on something that is more their style.”
Ms Cooper said ultimately, designers are problem solvers. They look for a gap where something can be filled or corrected.
“These shorts could be something that could help, whether it is an Olympic athlete or someone who has a prosthetic leg,” she said. “Why not have something that is more convenient?”
Her shorts come in small, medium and large, and are available at Medical House, 6 Bakery Lane, Pembroke on and at Gibbons Company’s Palm Lane Store on Water Street in St George.
To help move her idea forward she took part in an Ignite business accelerator programme running from May to September 2020. When that finished, she joined Ignite’s Fuel the Ambition programme.
“I thought it would be a good idea to be around a lot of people, especially during Covid-19, to get feedback, and be in a hub,” she said. “At that point we did not think that Covid-19 was going to go on for another year and a half. I got in, and that was great, because there are mentors in that programme, and other fellow entrepreneurs.”
Because of Covid-19 the group has only ever met in person, once, but they meet frequently online.
She found Ignite to be extremely helpful and motivating.
“Ignite was good because it gave me a place to speak about my idea,” she said. “It also helped me to follow through.”
While there were no specific deadlines for her work, Ignite mentors would prod her along, by gently asking questions about her progress.
“They would say, when will they actually be finished?” she said. “I said soon. The mentor said you might be in that same situation next year. I thought, okay, this has got to happen.”
Her swimwear and beach wraps are known for their colour and bold prints, and also for her use of recycled, environmentally sustainable fabrics.
“It is almost like sustainability should just be part of your brand,” she said.
Ms Cooper started her design career in 2007 with a cotton, batik beach sarong with a Bermuda bay grape motif.
In 2010, she collaborated with a New York City fashion company and started designing spring and summer resort wear with sun protection. Four years later, she started her own sun protective clothing and swimwear line. In 2017, she was a licensee for America's Cup in Bermuda.
Her swim shorts range from $115 to $125 depending on the fabric.
For more information see www.danacooper.net, or see her on Instagram and Facebook @danacooperbermuda.