International Workshop DESIGN (DIS)ABILITY, City Museum, Ljubljana 2015
The production centre RogLab from Ljubljana and Open Style Lab from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US organized an international collaborative workshop entitled DESIGN (DIS)ABILITY, focused on design, disabilities and assistive technology.
The Ideas Behind the Workshop
The workshop is part of the ongoing project DESIGN (DIS)ABILITY, conceived by the Culturemaker Institute and was launched by RogLab in Spring 2014 with an international creative challenge for the designing of fashion accessory equipment for physically disabled people who use a wheelchair. The project opens up difficult debates in the seemingly frivolous field of fashion design. What is a perfect body? What are the side effects of the fashion industry? Can assistive technologies transgress medical discourse? How can fashion contribute to the cultural equality of disabled people?
The aim of the workshop is to create fashion accessories with and for users with physical disabilities. Over the course of this past month leading up the actual workshop in Ljubljana, the participants have been engaging in the intense onlline preparatory phase of this international collaborative process focusing on universal, user-centered design. Participants have been challenged to create both aesthetically pleasing and functional fashion designs that offset the constraints of disability. In addition to being mentored by an interdisciplinary team of experts from both design and engineering backgrounds, participants are also employing skills in a variety of fabrication techniques, as well as knowledge in basic programming and electronics for wearable technology in order to produce functional prototypes.
The DESIGN (DIS)ABILITY project was created out of a genuine need of a group of users, which coincides with both the crisis of the fashion and textile industry and with the increasing availability of digital fabrication tools. The local disabled population may be too small to be a profitable target market for the fashion industry; however, products for special target groups can represent a commercially interesting niche if we consider the global market. Furthermore, better access to digital fabrication tools enables faster and cheaper prototyping in small quantities.
The needs and experience of the users themselves are central to this workshop. Three volunteers with disabilities – Katarina Milićević, Tanja Pirnat and Silvo Mehle – are participating in all the phases of the workshop: from conceptualization of initial ideas to the testing and final production of the prototypes.
Eight selectep participants from six countries have collaboratively developped six prototypes under the mentorship of fashion designer Sanja Grcić and engneer Grace Teo.
Evrim Büyükaslan (TR)
She holds a master’s degree in Polymer Science and Technology. Currently, she is doing her PhD studies in Textile Engineering focused on 3D body scanning and representation of garments and fabrics in virtual environments. She works as a research assistant in Istanbul Bilgi University’s Fashion Design Department. She has worked for Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) and the Li-Fung Production Offices in Turkey.
Hedvig af Ekenstam (SE/SI)
With a focus in material textiles, Hedvig af Ekenstam currently works as a designer and developer at Hedra, a Swedish brand specialized in garments for elderly and people with special needs. She graduated from Konstfack, Industrial Design Program, in Stockholm, Sweden in 2008.
Levi Goldman (US)
Levi is a PhD candidate in Communication and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego. His research is in design, wearable technology, medical advertising and disability, with a focus on prosthetics mechatronic design.
Magdalena Orasche (AT/DE)
Magdalena studied Industrial Design at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and at IADE Lisbon. Currently, she works as an industrial designer at Aptar, Freyung in Germany. Her interest is in how to produce niche products for individuals on an industrial level.
Maja Šimunović (HR)
Maja is a graduate of the University of Textile and Technologies in Zagreb. As a designer and design department head, she has worked for the biggest fashion brands in the country. She is a co-founder of the fashion brand Roba and a member of the Croatian Design Society.
Dejan Tašner (SI)
An orthotics and prosthetics engineer, researcher and entrepreneur, Dejan also holds an MS in Management and Economics in Health Care from the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics. He is the director of the company Orthopedic Engineering in Slovenia. He is passionate about developing user-centred products.
Jensin Elaine Wallace (US)
The intersection of technology and fashion is collaborative space where beauty and purpose collide. Jensin uses her creativity to design and develop experimental textiles that mix traditional craft with new technologies. She holds an MA from the School of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP) within the University of Cincinnati.
Petja Zorec (SI)
A fashion designer focused on the demands of everyday life and menswear, she currently works as an assistant professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering and runs her own label. She won first prize in the international RogLab design contest DESIGN (DIS)ABILITY. She is a member of SQUAT society.