Born in Germany, Michael Ryan Andolsek experienced palaces and castles around Europe at a young age and quickly developed a fascination with the architecture, the dress, and the interior design. “I would get to see these wonderful structures and I loved the beauty and the attention to detail, the gold, and the chandlers…I think it contributed to my imaginative play.”
The only boy among four sisters he would often join in on their make believe, lending his creative imagination to dress-up, re-arranging the furniture, and building castles with his Legos. “I like to see pretty things, and there are more women around me than there are men, so when they’re wearing beautiful clothes, I’m seeing it.” Michael says. “There’s a lot in women’s wear you can do.”
When Michael was 15 and was required to take a gym class, he and a friend quickly decided they didn’t want to participate. They would instead sneak off to read his friend’s collection of Vogue magazines. “I had not realized, up until then, that there was a whole industry behind clothing,” Michael explains, “and I decided to draw, because I love drawing, and came up with my own designs that weekend and thought ‘this is what I want to do’.”
That’s when Michael decided to quit high school and started taking college classes in fashion design.
At the age of 19, he was accepted into Parsons Paris The New School For Design, where he mentored in draping under Cecile Pelous, a retired Mater Draper for notable couture houses like Christian Dior and Nina Ricci. His talent, acute attention to detail, and obsessive work ethic earned him an acceptance into the prestigious École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. He was one of three American’s accepted that year.
Michael continued to struggle with anxiety, obsessive compulsiveness, physical sensitivities, and being uncomfortable in social situations. When he made a sudden move back to Salt Lake City from Paris, his family decided it was time to seek help.
After being diagnosed with autism at the age of 21, Michael’s family worked together to develop the the Andolsek Company, one of Utah’s only haute couture companies. The goal was twofold — a place where Michael could showcase and sell his high-end fashion lines and custom dresses, and a platform for autism awareness and support.
Working with the University of Utah Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic, the Andolsek Company hires interns and fosters a safe, comfortable environment for people with autism to work, explore, and learn about the fashion industry.
“We have a young man with us who went through vocational rehabilitation…he was working as a janitor and then he found out about our business and we met and went over the different tasks that we do,” says Michael. “He showed an interest in embroidery and it’s incredible what he can produce. It’s important to provide an atmosphere where people feel comfortable to be themselves, and to let them experiment and try things that they normally wouldn’t be exposed to and see where it goes. It just kind of boosts you as a human.”
To learn more about Michael and the Andolsek Company visit the website here. Also check out their Instagram and Facebook feeds.
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