Participatory Design - Product Design - Social Enterprise 

Designing for Identity through Soft Goods with the Regent Park Sewing Circle

Tread is a product created in collaboration with a group of women from the Regent Park community in Toronto, ON. Regent Park was once Canada's largest social housing project that is in the process of revitalization for its community members. A group of immigrant women from various middle eastern countries make up The Sewing Studio, a community group run at the Community Centre for Learning and Development (CCL&D). The group offers free sewing classes to community members as well as an outlet for members to sell their locally made soft foods to tourists and other Toronto locals. A select group of OCAD University Industrial Design students and the Sewing Circle spent a semester together to design key products for the women to produce as much as they'd like to generate an income for themselves that utilized their skills. 

Sydney Cooling-Sturges (open, above).PNG
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Members of the Sewing Studio are often new immigrants to Canada and have difficulty applying their skills to the workforce in their new homes. The women in the Sewing Studio are incredibly talented sewers, capable of complex designs and detailing, but have difficulty applying these skills to generate a sustainable income.


By co-designing with the women in the Sewing Studio, my classmates and I were able to create products that are attractive to other Torontonian's as well as tourists in order to generate income from the sale of these products. These products were designed so that they could be reproduced and sold in the future.


Tread was created after my close encounters with each of the women and hearing about their daily lives as well as where they come from. Each of the women walked to do their laundry, carrying it long distances often by foot, even in wet and snowy weather. Some of the women's garments, specifically their scarves for hijabs, could not be dried in a machine which became problematic; what do you do with the damp clothing?

Tread is a modular, water resistant laundry bag; a drawstring bad that can be cross-body or a backpack, with removable, expandable netting to hold damp clothing and dry it on the way home. 

Independent design project created in collaboration with members of the Regent Park Sewing Studio and the CCL&D.



All of my design ideas were inspired by my weekly discussions with the women in the Sewing Studio; our needs, our wants, how we see Toronto. The women talked about living in Regent Park and that most people renting in Toronto don't have laundry onsite, making laundry a particularly time consuming chore when items need to be air dried or during the colder months when a short walk is more onerous.


I didn't own a sewing machine at the time of creating the project, so I often wove or hand sewed my prototypes after drawing them out. The final product was made with a combination of my prototype's components; modularity, woven components.


The final product was made by me through weaving and sewing techniques, overseen by the women in the Sewing Studio while I used their group's machines. The final product is made of ripstop on the inside, because of its water resistance, and thick canvas on the outside, because it is sturdy. The woven component, made from nylon chord, is removable with silver hooks sewn into the canvas.

Interviewed as class representative with professor Ranee Lee for an article with NOW Magazine. Read about it below!

I also had the pleasure of having my work exhibited in “re:location - show and sale” in Regent Park's Daniels’ Spectrum in December 2018 and in "re:location" as part of DesignTO 2019 in OCAD University's Great Hall.