Last semester, we created alter egos from a set of objects that we received, a process which honestly was rather long mostly because we had no fixed idea as to where this was going. The question which fueled the beginning of the project was a rather interesting one: “Can objects tell stories?” I believe that they do, though one can argue that the story told through them is nearly entirely born from the viewers’ perception, interpretation and imagination. Nevertheless, from my objects, I gathered that I was dealing with an elderly man with Alzheimer. With that information in hand, I built a persona with memories, experiences and a life. As the project progressed we delved into our personas habits as a consumer and member of society. Obviously, his age and condition played a huge part in determining where he stood and I noticed that, when it came to clothing, there were few brands centred around the needs of elderly and disabled people. As a person interested in the fashion industry but also with personal experiences with people that could have benefited from a wider and more adapted choice of clothing, I oriented myself in that direction when, during the following semester, we were presented with the opportunity to initiate our own client brief.
Having the proper clothing is quite often overlooked in comparison to the necessity of centres, carers and adapted equipment, thus resulting in that simple mindless act becoming a laborious task for them and their carers. While it is possible to find adaptive clothing brands, it is very hard. That is without mentioning the frankly rather boring and hospital-looking clothes that you find on nearly every clothing website that caters to their needs.
So with that in mind, I intended to either create a platform which would bring all these addresses together and make it more accessible so as not to waste time looking for them or create a brand altogether. I had a look at what was being done and while the clothing fulfilled its purpose, most of the brands delivered dull and unflattering content nearly exclusively made of cotton, obviously meant for elderly people or with the sole purpose of fulfilling its function and that only. As for the materials used, I have nothing against cotton, it has the benefit of making the article of clothing comfortable, easy to wash and resistant, but if I’m being honest I’d rather not spend my life clad from head to toe in cotton. Basically, there was little to no clothing which reunited comfort, confidence and originality. I had intended to speak to a wide audience but ended up gravitating towards a younger audience in order to offer them clothing designed for every disability and/or limitation while still giving them comfort and freedom of clothing and style, as well as the confidence they need, want and deserve.
Following this, I decided to look into materials which are still easily washable and offer more variety and personality. I narrowed it down to certain types of viscose, wool but also velvet, synthetic satin and vinyl. Once I had that down, I moved on to the different types of closing and fastening that would suit as many disabilities as possible, from the inability to lift your arms, the possibility of having only one hand or none to fasten clothing, to long periods spent sitting for people in wheelchairs.
The research part was easy and fun to do. It got complicated when it came to designing the clothes while remembering all the limitations that could possibly render the task arduous and therefore my designs irrelevant. I made a collection of garments as useful and gender-neutral as possible with the aid of snap closings, hook and bar and velcro. I covered outerwear, underwear designed for incontinence, tops, skirts, dresses and trousers which can be adapted according to one’s size and/or condition, per example the cut of coats and bottoms need to be adjusted to avoid excess fabric and pressure sores for people in wheelchairs.
I printed the project on A3 paper, with the washing instructions and annotations pertaining to each piece of clothing on tracing paper and linked it together with a single sheet bookbinding technique. I was very passionate about this problem as I feel that this is something that could benefit so many people, it was also extremely interesting to put myself in someone’s position, or at least try to do so, and design something that would make them feel confident and proud despite their disability. As for those whose disabilities are less visible but still present through per example shaking hands, I wanted to be able to take off that dread of getting dressed.