Designing adaptive clothing for the differently abled: in conversation with Shalini Visakan

Designing adaptive clothing for the differently abled: in conversation with Shalini Visakan

It goes without saying that fashion is an art form, and to be a designer, you need to have an artistic and creative mind. But to be able to create adaptive clothing for people with disabilities (PwDs) is something else entirely. Meet Shalini Visakan, a designer from Chennai who is breaking barriers for PwDs.

Visakan launched Suvastra Designs upon realizing that there was no one catering to the millions of people whose advanced age or disabilities make the simple act of getting dressed difficult. Her first collection, which included 5 designs for men and 5 for women, aims to help PwDs dress independently and fashionably.

Here, Visakan tells us about the inspiration, creative process and future plans for Suvastra Designs:

1) What was the inspiration for the designs you created for PwDs? 

Source: DTNext
Source: DTNext

My inspiration was my husband. He is a post-polio survivor.

2) What was it like working on creating adaptive clothing for PwDs? How did you feel when you designed your first piece?

It was challenging but at the same time, very interesting. It involves a lot of creativity, so for me, looking at the end product gives me a lot of satisfaction and a feeling of achievement.

3) Designing women’s traditional wear is not usually an easy task. How did you come up the one-piece sari?

My husband’s friend’s mother who is in a wheelchair likes to visit temples regularly, but lately, since she is not able to wear a sari, she stopped going. Upon learning that she is more comfortable wearing a nighty, I decided to design a a comfortable nighty that looks like a sari so that she would feel at ease when stepping out of the house and look great at the same time.

4) What were your husband’s and aunt’s reaction to your adaptive clothing?

They were very comfortable and happy. Auntie is saying that she can now go to any place without hesitation.

5) Suvastra Designs is a big hit, what are the future plans?

I am currently just meeting many differently abled people and doing research.  In the near future, I plan to open a boutique which can cater both differently abled and able bodied people.

6) What is your favourite part about being a designer?


7)  When designing for PwDs, what are some challenges you face?

You have to put yourself in their shoes while designing the clothing, so it’s important to consider all the aspects and angles of the garments you create.

8) What can designers do to be more accommodating for PwDs?

We may not be able to serve all their needs in the piece of clothing but if we able to reduce 50% of their difficulty in wearing the clothing, I think that’s a great start – 50% is better than 0 after all. So I believe that at least 2 to 3 designers per city should take the initiative to start designing clothes for PwDs. There is a great demand for adaptive clothing.

It is indicative of a progressive mind-set when a fashion designer pioneers ways to clothe bodies with limited mobility. We hope it inspires others to design, develop and listen to the needs of all individuals from the start, and not as an afterthought.

For more information, check out the Suvastra Designs on Facebook.

Interview by Nikhil Srinivas

Featured image source: The New Indian Express


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