UCQC InclusiveDEVELOPMENT OF A FASHIONABLE JACKET FOR PEOPLE WITH MOBILITY IMPAIRMENT
It started at an international fashion workshop four years ago in Ljubljana where Maja Simunovic Fashion designer and Hedvig af Ekenstam Industrial designer met and got touched by the story of young Katarina.
Katarina was in a car accident early years and became tetraplegic. She is in wheelchair but strives to be as independent as possible, also when it comes to dressing. Hedvig and Maja realised there is a real need to rethink mainstream fittings and open up for new standards, material combinations and inclusive designs for people like Katarina with physical restrictions.
Maja Simunovic (Croatia)
Senior fashion designer, interested in making fashionable and functional clothes for disabled people. Maja graduated from the Faculty of Textile technology, Zagreb, Croatia. She has more than 10 years’ experience working as a designer and as head of the design department. She is also co-founder of the brand Roba.
Hedvig Af Ekenstam (Slovenia)
Senior product designer with a background in textiles. She aims to create fashionable clothes for people with disabilities. She graduated in Industrial design at Konstfack Stockholm. Currently she focuses on product design and textile design boundaries and she is participating in the development of Hedra, clothes for elderly people.
We both love problem solving! This common interest together with our specific expertise brought us to an international Design (dis)ability workshop in Ljubljana. Through a girl named Katarina, we were introduced to the idea of designing clothes for people with disabilities. We got conscious of her different needs and challenges in life. With our knowledge and previous experience, Maja fashion designer and Hedvig UX designer and by close work with Katarina, we saw an opportunity to solve problems for many other people with the same need and challenges as her.
THE BIRTH OF THE PROJECT:
After the workshop, Maja helped Hedvig with development and production for a fashion collection targeting elderly. Soon U.C.Q.C. (Unique Comfort Quality Clothes), was born, as we felt a need to proceed with clothes for people with disabilities and to brainstorm a collection of functional urban garments. Soon we applied with the idea to Worth project.
Within Worth partnership project we have got the opportunity to develop these specific functional urban garments further and the brand UCQC. Our network of potential users are the inspiration and force for the innovation and development. They are hard to please, both in comfort but even more in look!
THE CREATIVE PROCESS:
As in all creative processes we have our ups and downs. Thrilled while designing, troubled to find the right fabric, getting the prototype ready, excited to try them on our users. But not all is simple, we made a first set of prototypes, met with our users, and realized that none of them would fit. But then we met Marko, 30 years in wheelchair with the same pair of trousers and he was thrilled. This gave us hope and strength to continue. Our work is closely connected with our users, and without their feedback we cannot get far. It is nice to collaborate and hear their needs and then create a garment that may ease their everyday life and make them smile..
Excellent thing is when people from various backgrounds share different knowledge, experiences, so together make it possible to reach the results one would never do alone.
In our duo, Hedvig, designer with focus in problem solving, user tests and Maja, fashion designer who get the idea, to a sketch, fabrics and a final product. It is essential to share ideas, doubts, work… a constant back up though a complex design and production process.
Web page, Brand strategy and Visual identity for UCQC is made. Now we focus on getting a final feedback from our users. Do they like our products, the look and function?
What are they ready to pay? The next important step is to get us visible for a larger audience. Tools as a webpage with video, product photos visual identity. Blog with and about users and stories to inspire and build trust within our society.
Develop potential web for sale- online on our web shop, and on other web shops too.
Find reliable and acceptable fabric and accessories suppliers, go into development of sizes, negotiate good production price. Settle simple and efficient logistics. To get to these goals the next step of investment would be highly welcomed.
To join forces to reach outcomes, we would never be able to do alone. To learn from each other and to develop together has been crucial. Within Worth project we got also the valuable access to useful and focused learning material. Deadlines and goals have supported our projects growth. Although the pandemic has shaken our plans to present UCQC on Design trade fair, we have to be patient now, and wait for new opportunities to open.