At New York Fashion Week 2016, fashion designer Michael Kuluva revealed that he’s been battling rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for years. As a part of his Tumbler and Tipsy brand, his Creaky and Tipsy collection aimed to raise awareness for arthritis. It was full of color and highlighted points on the body affected by arthritis. The entire collection sold out!

Creaky and Tipsy Collection

Michael came to CreakyJoints to speak out about his experience with RA. Our collaboration culminated to his Spring/Summer 2017 runway collection, Creaky and Tipsy, which was showcased at New York Fashion Week in 2016.

“As someone who has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I wanted this collection to highlight my own personal experience, while also bringing awareness to such a debilitating disease and the goal of living successfully, despite it,” said Michael.

The fashion forward collection is colorful, and inspired by joint awareness. Every piece has bursts of colors on the joints, highlighting parts of the body that arthritis affects.

Models of Creaky and Tipsy at New York Fashion Week

Michael Kuluva’s collection, Creaky and Tipsy, on the runway at New York Fashion Week 2016

Diagnosis

Michael’s first sign of arthritis came painfully and unexpectedly: One day in 2011 while walking from class at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, he collapsed from an attack of pain.

He went to a urologist who then referred him to a rheumatologist. Looking at the test results from his rheumatologist, Michael said, “My whole body lit up like a Christmas tree.” The results showed significant inflammation. But before he was correctly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis by Mayo Clinic at age 28, his rheumatologist misdiagnosed him with psoriatic arthritis.

Five years following his diagnosis, Michael chose to “come out” as a person successfully living with RA to help others, particularly younger people who may be recently diagnosed. “I was secretive about the disease because of my career. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed or stigmatized as I’d seen happen to others,” Michael says. “But now I hear more and more about young people having arthritis and I remember how frustrated I was when I was diagnosed because of all the things I didn’t know, so I want to speak out.”

Michael Kuluva at New York Fashion Week

Michael Kuluva at New York Fashion Week

Living and Working with Arthritis

Living with RA, or any form of arthritis, can be challenging, particularly for Michael as he manages his Tumbler and Tipsy brand. He’s been in and out of remission and continues to manage a very full schedule. To be proactive in managing his pain, Michael tries to walk every day. He also uses a mobile app called ArthritisPower to track his symptoms and treatments.

“[ArthritisPower] keeps me fully engaged in my RA management plan, particularly because it’s really easy to use,” said Michael. “I just pull out my phone and enter in how I’m feeling. It’s motivating to monitor my personal data because if I’m feeling better or worse (it happens!) then I can share that information with my doctor.”

Michael logs information related to his health (e.g., how he slept or how achy he feels), and together with his doctor, they review the data and make decisions about his future treatment.

“I have RA, but it doesn’t define who I am as a person. It’s just one aspect of my busy life. I’m sharing my experience managing the disease and using ArthritisPower because I want to encourage people with all kinds of arthritis to take charge of their health and maintain a positive attitude towards daily management,” said Michael.

The main message he wants to deliver to people with arthritis, particularly the newly diagnosed, is to be patient in learning about your disease and how it affects you. “You will have good and bad days – every day is different,” he says, “but it is possible to live your life on your terms with arthritis.”