Russian Fashion Week, Designs for Disabilities

On October 23rd, 2015, Bezgraniz Couture presented a set of special collections for people with disabilities as part of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia in Moscow.

There are 7 billion of us in the world and not a single body can be considered perfect. Some people's bodies seem beautiful to us, while others scare us. The human body forever remains a source of mystery, joy and worries. The Bezgraniz Couture project is posing some important questions: What is the relationship between society and body? What kind of clothes do our bodies really need? What will clothes look like in five, fifty, five hundred years, and will we, who are capable to appreciating the beauty of dead statues, learn to see the beauty of living people, the sight of whom we've been conditioned to avoid?

In the course of our lives our bodies undergo numerous transformations, some of them dramatic, and very often our clothes become the instrument that helps us return to the state of physical comfort, they give us the sense of confidence, help us overcome our fears and restart the process of communication. We are helped in this by the latest technologies and surprising solutions used in the process of design. Our clothes literally become the extension of our bodies and our assistants, fine tuning themselves towards our peculiarities, improving and preserving the quality of life.

For us, wearABLE future is the future of new and equal opportunities, future without barriers.

The show titled wearABLE future consisted of 5 different collections, which were presented by models using wheelchair, models with Cerebral Palsy, models with amputations and models with the Down syndrome. At the very end of the show the awe struck audience gave a standing ovation to Russia's ExoAtlet pilot. ExoAtlet is a Russian innovation that provides people with mobility restrictions with an exoskeleton that allows them to stand and move upright.

The clothes for the wearABLE future collection were designed by the first-year students of the British Higher School of Art and Design Moscow (BHSD) as part of the school's first-ever course on designing clothes for people with disabilities. The models who demonstrated the clothes on the catwalk consulted the designers in the process of creation.

In beginning of 2015 the special course became a part of the core program at the BHSD, setting a precedent for other design schools around the world. This gives way for a new approach to the work of designers that create something new at the junction of functionality and aesthetics.

"We worked on the project for several months. It all began with a deep and complex re-search," — comment the supervisors of the education program Anna Chernykh and Vladimir Tilinin.– "After studying the counterparts, we organized interviews with the models, asking them what kind of clothes they need to feel as comfortable as possible. The period of preparation ended with "off-duty observation" Ч we were studying our models when they didn't notice us, watching in order to observe their natural behavior and, consequently, to understand what kinds of situations and problems they face in their everyday lives."

There are some examples of differences between regular clothes and clothes for people with disabilities:

People with ICP have a trouble dressing themselves due to the involuntary spastic move-ments of hands and feet, and they have a hard time with regular buttons due to the paralysis of the right or left side of the body. We developed a clasp on the blazer that can be fastened with only one hand. The stitches on the jacket are reinforced to make sure that it doesn't tear apart. We added a spinal brace that supports the body to the men's T-shirt. We have inserted a special slippery material in the inseam of trousers. People with ICP often rub their knees when they walk, but with such "slippery" material the pants won't wear into holes. The blazer also plays an important visual function, correcting the disproportions of the figure.

The trick with choosing clothes for people with Down syndrome is that although they don't buy clothes on their own, if the clothes that are offered to them are uncomfortable or simply not to their liking, they won't agree to wear it. Our collection is all about proportions, about the length and the incline of the shoulder: we introduced a new standard base and developed a unique size chart that is drastically different from the standard clothing sizes. Pin tucks at the sleeves compensate for the missing volumes of the shoulder girdle. We designed a men's coverall that looks like it's a jacket and a pair of pants. Such models simplify the process of dressing and undressing. The coverall corrects the disproportions of the body and visually "levels it out." There is a special pocket on a sleeve that contains the information about the person and his address Ч if such person gets lost, people will be able to help him return home.

People using wheelchair have quite often a rather hard time dressing and undressing on their own. The special feature of the dress that we made is that it is spread out on the wheelchair and then is put around the person like an envelope.

During the show the models' walk was accompanied by infographics detailing the design features and innovations in order to explain the pecularities of the different garments. Fol-lowing the show that was a raving success, there was a press conference that brought to-gether the founder of Bezgraniz Couture Yanina Urusova, the Director of Passenger Car Sales of Mercedes-Benz Russia Maria Morozova, the course directors of the British Higher School of Art and Design Anna Chernykh and Vladimir Tilinin, and the CEO of Burda Pub-lishing House Russia Juergen Ulrich. The press conference was used to present the results of the world's first survey of the purchasing power of people with disabilities. The survey was initiated by Bezgraniz Couture and was carried out by the "School of Art and Design at Nottingham Trent University (UK) Ч Julian Wing and Professor Anthony Kent.

"Bezgraniz Couture is a social-entrepreneurial project based on the principles of sustaina-bility. We are gradually developing the project since 2010, teaching designers, bringing together investors, creative people, production," Ч says Yanina Urusova. Ц "In addition to working on the people's and society's perception of humans with disabilities, the project seeks to create collections that are fashionable and ready for large-scale production. I believe that in the near future, perhaps within a couple of years, the clothes for people with disabilities will become so interesting that it will become the clothes of choice for the "regular" people, just like many people today wear workwear initially designed for the yachtsmen, sportsmen or cowboys Ч not only because it is beautiful, but also because it is comfortable. Considering how many people told us today that ours was a full-scale fashion show, not a project for people with disabilities, we are on the right track."

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