Accessibility November 10, 2019
At Zyenika Adaptive Wear clothes come with small touches for specific disability needs
When Kolkata-based Soumita Basu started losing her mobility gradually, she realised how inaccessible most readymade clothing is for people with disabilities. Many designers did not even understand what adaptive clothing meant. The struggles led her to start her own line called Zyenika Adaptive Wear.
Do frozen shoulders or arthritic fingers deter you from wearing a saree? Or does the thought of struggling with a bra hook come in the way of wearing a well fitted top? When Soumita Basu started losing her upper and lower body mobility in stages eight years ago, this is exactly what she went through. The struggles led this former development sector professional to start looking at the adaptive clothing scene in India.
“When I fell sick eight years ago, I started losing my mobility slowly”, recalls Soumita who lives in Kolkata. “The disability was progressive, starting in the jaws and spreading gradually towards my toes.” Soumita’s life changed in fundamental ways but what affected her most was fact that she became dependent for dressing up.
“Dressing up is a private moment and to ask people for help in this had a strange effect on me mentally”, she recalls. “Allowing people into my personal life was hard and I started wearing skirts and dresses more often to avoid things like bending down”. As the disability spread, even this became difficult. “I had arthritis, so every joint became painful and the muscles were inflamed. Regular clothes became impossible to wear”.
Soumita took to wearing oversized clothes which would fit her badly or fall off the shoulders. “I looked like a sack and people would stare at me strangely and I stopped going out”. Her social life was virtually over, and the turning point was when she stayed away from a much-loved cousin’s wedding. “I didn’t go for my cousin’s wedding as I had nothing to wear. We were so close and for me that was the trigger”.
Soumita started actively seeking brands that were into adaptive clothing. She found none. The few adaptive designers she found in Chennai and Kochi were either too expensive or hard to access. Local designers did not understand what adaptive wear meant.
So, Soumita decided to put her interest in fabrics and design to use.
I studied fashion brands in the West that were designing adaptive wear and I started off small and on myself. I looked at designs that I could wrap around myself without much help and worked directly with tailors. That led to Zyenika Adaptive Wear. We plan to launch a readymade line by June 2020 so that people can access the clothes easily. – Soumita Basu, Founder, Zyenika Adaptive Wear
Wearable and Beautiful
From secret openings for people who cannot raise their arms or move their shoulders to loops with zips for better grip, Soumita’s designs have clever techniques that help overcome mobility challenges in aesthetic ways. The clothes have zips that have been modified for extra grip and strength. She uses big buttons with elastic loops that help keep the top or dress in place.
Soumita is also open to co-creating designs with users so the garment is specific to their needs, fabric an colour preferences. Given her own close experiences with the struggles of dressing well with a disability, Soumita has come up with many thoughtful ideas like clothes with an extra inner layer for women who find it hard to wear a bra. “It is not an alternative to wearing a good bra but if you are unable to wear one, this is a good option”, adds Soumita. In the works are incontinence panties of which prototypes are being developed.
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