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Lili Pazmany solves outfit struggles of wheelchair users

December 18, 2019 16:36

With her designs the hungarian fashion designer tackles a grievance in our society. She designs for people with physical disabilities. Why this is so important and unfortunately still special? Googleing wheelchair fashion, you find functional raincoats, looking like the thing you cover your bike with in winter, and long jackets rather reminding of grandmothers woollen blankets. To this day, there exists not one single international fashion label, offering wheelchair-friendly clothing in line with current fashion trends. The sitting position distorts the normal clothing, created for standing poses. In order to make clothing comfortable and fashionable for wheelchair users, a lot of research and development is needed, a task that does not yet seem to be profitable for large profit-oriented companies. The result: frustration and a feeling of exclusion among those affected. Lili just graduated at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest. With her graduation collection Unobstructed, she blazes a new trail, showing a combination of functional, flexible designs for sitting position with the face of urbanwear. Lili’s very personal motivation is her mother, who has been dependent on the wheelchair for about 5 years due to her MS disease.

With TITLE she speaks about how highlighting problem areas can be both, enlighteningly and harming.

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Would you have come up with the same topic if there hadn't been any personal reasons?

Because I work voluntarily with people with physical disabilities, sooner or later I would have come across the topic anyway. I started volunteering before my mom got sick. I was always interested in making fashion for people with special needs. I spend a semester at kingsal university in London to work on it, because the audience is more open minded regarding these subjects. 

Why do you think large companies are not trying to reach the target group of disabled persons yet?

The biggest problem is the production of the clothes. Right now they are mainly produced for standing position and also for moving positions. The production focuses on cuts that are easy to multiply. They don’t think about the people with special needs, because they are too few, to make the effort profitable. Even plus-size is still a problem on today’s market. The only special need that is covered properly so far, is Maternity clothing.

What are the biggest problems for disabled people in the process of buying clothes?

It's not easy finding them and also many have money problems, living in a wheelchair is expensive. Another problem is getting into the store at all, many places are still not barrier-free.

Have you personally heard from people who are disabled, that they want different clothing?

For my graduate collection I did research. I made up a questionnaire, collecting the answers of 60 woman and man sitting in wheelchair. It turned out everyone wants more fashionable clothing.

What do you have to keep in mind when creating fashion for people in wheelchairs? 

You have to be aware of the sitting position, its requiring different cut lines for the clothes, because you need sleeves that are aligned to a 90 degree angle and pieces that are shorter on the front and longer in the back. Also it’s a problem to put things on and off while sitting. Solving this problem I created one shirt that comes in assistance with a scarf, you get in the shirt from front and then wrap it around you back.

What kind of fabrics do you use?

They have to be elastic. So it’s not only restrict for sitting position because some people can stand, and walk for a short time. Sometimes I don't use material at all, and solve this problem with cut outs and strap-on’s. Like for example to put the pants on and off, I made a solution where one can strap them on like nylons. I experimented a lot with it and somehow came to the conclusion that I need a really strong fabric for it. I decided to use denim because its strong and also cool. It’s inspired by berlin streetwear. 

Your designs are really characteristic and modern. How you developed this style?

The way I design I highlight the problems, especially the parts where I cut out something, or use different cutlines. I guess the way I make this visible, is a really good way to raise awareness for the difficulties.

Have you made experiences where disabled individuals feel excluded or disadvantaged because of their clothes?

As I said I made the questionnaire. They all answered they feel stamped because of their clothes. They would rather buy something from common brands to look like everyone else, because their fashion is always only functional. Many of these functional clothes highlight the problem in a really wrong and unaesthetic way. My clothes also highlight but it’s a campaign behind.

Have you already found other brands that make wheelchair fashion in a contemporary style? 

Fortunately there are new campaigns recently. We need clothes for every occasion, like wedding dresses or suits and best of all now. 

What has to change, to make more people recognize this as a problem?

I had the chance to show my collection to an audience, but it was just one collection. It would be nice if they would do more Fashion Weeks for this, to show companies, there is a new market they can enter. I don't just want to complain, I can see things getting better!