“Designing for differently-abled is not a trend, it’s a necessity”. Balancing fashion through functional clothing will empower people and advocate for inclusiveness – that’s the aim.
On a daily basis, people take a lot of things for granted. A lot of us do not so much as bat an eyelid while doing ‘regular’ things like zipping up our pants or doing their buttons. It’s as easy as “pulling a zip up, right?” Wrong.
Let’s accept it. Our culture is largely ableist. Our fashion, globally, is ableist.
The regular things that a lot of people take for granted can be difficult for someone with a motor-neurone illness, differently shaped limbs, or a mental illness that affects capacity. Trembling of fingers on trying to pull the zippers or limbs turning spastic on trying to do the shoelaces, amongst other lifestyle difficulties, are just a few things that a lot of us go through on a daily basis, and this is also a part of the reality.
The only reason why it’s not taken care of in the mainstream is that these dialogues rarely surface in the mainstream discussion on fashion and sartorial needs. In a world that is finally waking up to the hazards of being bound by an illness, it is now more important than ever to talk about adaptation and customisation.
Adaptive clothing or clothing designed to aid differently-abled people might be an answer to this. It’s important to acknowledge that clothes should be made to adapt to the wearer, and not the other way round. To this end, adaptive clothing is modified to help people with conditions that cause disability and their carers to dress independently or assist individuals with ease.
In India, unfortunately, this concept is foreign to many designers as well as consumers, making it a seemingly unheard of option.
For Monika Dugar though, this was a personal project inspired by the onset of her father’s Parkinson’s Disease. She decided to study the relationship between motor-neuron diseases and clothing in-depth, leading to an effective design to aid patients through visual control. Her collection includes bright, boldly coloured, and striped designs. Parkinson’s affects a patient’s vision due to the lack of coordination between their walking (gait) and visual perception.
According to the Visual Control of Locomotion in Parkinson’s Disease, the study successfully demonstrates that the perceived motion of stripes induced by the patient’s walking is essential to improve the gait parameters. It is important in favouring the hypothesis of a specific visual-motor pathway which is particularly responsive to rapidly moving targets.
Monika’s collection is the first of its kind in India, with the singular aim of raising awareness of Motor- Neurone Disorders and Parkinson’s Adaptive clothing in the fashion industry.
Homegrown spoke to her at length to understand her process of designing her collection [R E S E T] and everything she hopes to achieve with the same.
About Monika’s Project
“I became involved in researching the condition after my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years ago. The hand tremors, stiffness and slow movement associated with Parkinson’s disease made the dressing routine pesky and difficult for him. I was at crossroads to explore fashion and adaptive clothing during my course at London College of Fashion, a market that sits at the niche of the transformation of the fashion in an ageing generation and disabled, which motivated me to work on [R E S E T].”
Says Monika, “M,y collection is inspired by the concept of Visual Control of Locomotion in Parkinson’s disease, Brain: A Journal of Neurology – which is where I found that when someone with Parkinson’s looks at certain patterns, it could improve their mobility through visual cues. This reinspired me to design the collection, which not only is influential but features patterns which could aid mobility in people with Parkinson’s. The collection reinvents conservative adaptive clothing by providing a sense of freedom and a new vision.”
The journey of designing [R E S E T]
“When a parent is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it’s not only them that suffers, but the whole family does. For us, it has been eye-opening to see how small changes to clothing could make such a difference to someone’s life. If I can change someone’s life through my work, it will give me a profound sense of satisfaction.”
She continues, “as far as design is concerned, it is inspired by the unique experiences that people with disabilities have. This comes from when you start making design personal and when you start reflecting on them. Communicating your observation as a human being with your point of view through the designs is a process of innovation, problem-solving and empathising with them.
When you start questioning your designs it naturally incurs into every single design you make. Just ask yourself, Will your design solve the purpose? Who is it for? Is it doing justice through the design? You create your own USP as you start discovering yourself.”
We also asked about the effect the pan-India lockdown has had on her...
“The pandemic has caused strain and despair, but it’s also encouraged me to use this time to research more, and brainstorm hundreds of ideas. I’m constantly experimenting, instigating new methods and updating research within [R E S E T]. For now, I’ve sent my clothing samples to people across healthcare to consider the flaws in my collection so that I am able to improve and customise it accordingly.”
How has the pandemic affected her work as a designer?
“Lot of things are postponed cause of Coronavirus. I was supposed to have a Charity Show for Parkinson’s UK to raise money with celebrity supporters and people with Parkinson’s walking the show in April, which has been postponed. Also, I was supposed to send my collection to Bliss Foster— a fashion researcher & blogger, to review my collection for his blog. A lot of things have been postponed due to Coronavirus. Nonetheless, I’m constantly working on my research and how I can improve the elements in my clothing based on the feedback.”
Shout out to some of her favourite contemporaries
Grace Jun @gracehjun
Christina Mallon @christina_disarmed
Sinéad Burke @the sineadburke
Lucy Jones @lucyjonesdesign
The list goes on & on.
But these are the people who have inspired me to work for the Adaptive Clothing market, especially with disabilities to strengthen creative practices.
A word on her favourite piece of work so far.
“My favourite piece of work is the optical illusional stripes print, which not only adds the street vibe and quirk but has a far more serious role to play. Providing the wearer visual cues, based on the effectiveness of utilising vision to facilitate locomotor activity. This research has been eye-opening for me to see how small changes to clothing could make such a difference to someone’s life. If I can change someone’s life through my work, it will give me a profound sense of satisfaction.”
Because we don’t believe in TMI:
A song you can’t get enough of?
Unthought Known, Pearl Jam
A snack combination you can get behind?
Maggi & Chai at night
Your greatest vice?
I can spend countless hours engrossed in vivid daydreams
If you like her work, you may follow her on Instagram @reset_adaptive
If you enjoyed reading this, we suggest you try