Meet the Guatemalan Designer With Down Syndrome Who’s Taking The Fashion World By Storm

Lead Photo: Luis Pedro Chang

When Isabella Springmühl sought to study fashion design in her native Guatemala, two schools turned her down, essentially citing her Down Syndrome as a liability. “They told me, ‘no, it can’t be done,’” she said on Despierta América. But Springmühl – who grew up with a fashion designer grandmother dreamed of following in her footsteps – refused to give up. She started designing clothes for her dolls at age 6, according to Look Magazine.

Last year, she got the opportunity to show off her work at Museo Ixchel, Guate Extaordinaria, where her clothes sold out. Her career has taken off ever since, and she can now boast about her padded resume. In January 2016, she became the first designer with Down Syndrome to show at London Fashion Week. In October, she’ll head to Rome to show off her designs, and right now, she’s getting the international attention she deserves.

Luis Pedro Chang
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Colorful prints have greatly inspired Isabella’s design aesthetic. This has introduced her to the world of Guatemala’s indigenous textiles, which she incorporates into many of her collections. Working with Guatemalan artisans, she creates heavily embroidered pieces that speak to the Central American country’s history.

Though she’s looking to design clothing for anyone and everyone, she also wants to focus on an often-neglected group of people: others who have Down Syndrome. “It’s hard for us to find clothing,” she said. “We have short necks, short torsos.” So she created Down to Xjabelle, a sister line to her grandmother’s Xjabelle brand created for people with Down Syndrome.

Learn more about Springmühl’s inspiring story above.