2016-11-18 08:00

New project on fashion beyond sight

The fashion world is primarily a visual experience. Trends show up in public places and spread by mass media, images, and photos. It is a universe that a blind or visually impaired person is excluded from. The new project Beyond Seeing wants to find answers to how the blind and visually impaired people experience fashion in these circumstances.

Vidmina StasiulyteParticipants come from fashion schools and organisations for the blind and visually impaired in Germany, France, Sweden, and Belgium. When the project is completed at the end of 2017, they will have held international workshops and an exhibition.

The first workshop was conducted in Paris at the end of October. Vidmina Stasiulyte, a doctoral student in the project ArcInTexETN at the University of Borås attended along with Clemens Thornquist, professor of fashion design.

“At our first workshop, we discussed different ways of seeing. We also developed creative approaches to how fashion can be perceived by senses other than sight,” says Vidmina Stasiulyte. “The first meeting was very inspiring and promising. I think we have the potential to create something amazing, contributing to non-visual aspects of clothing and reduce boundaries between sighted people and people with visual impairments,” she continues.

Blind and visually impaired people give perspective to the project

Emma LindhThe project will address issues such as how blind or visually impaired people feel about not being able to see what people are wearing, or how others react to the clothes they wear? What does fashion mean to a blind person? And how are colours, fabrics, and surfaces experienced when you cannot see?

To get answers to these questions, members of four organisations for the blind and visually impaired participate. Emma Lindh is with the organisation Visually Impaired Youth.

“I think it's great to be involved in the project and that the industry wants to get involved. And I think that it will culminate in something good. It is a great chance to do something exciting,” she says.

Emma Lindh has a visual acuity of only 4 percent in one eye. This means that it is possible to, for example, paint pictures (to which she devotes a lot of time) if she is very close. But it is more difficult to read, for example, billboards around town.

“I think there is a wide range of clothes for the visually impaired or blind people who want to dress comfortably. But I think features are missing that make it feel fun to shop for clothes even if you have a visual impairment,” she says.

She hopes to contribute ideas and act as a sounding board and with the perspective of someone who has a visual impairment.

“It was great in Paris. Among other things, we got to see a film that can give an insight into what it's like to be visually impaired. We also got to create garments from tulle and masking tape, while blindfolded,” says Emma Lindh.

Borås is involved in the project

Even the city of Borås is included as a partner in the project.

“Participation in Beyond Seeing is an important step in the city's efforts to establish itself as the textile hub in Scandinavia. This creates opportunities for designers and students to have a common international arena to develop and grow in their roles,” says Jonas Widerström, international business coordinator in Borås.

Participants in the project:

Fashion Schools:
The Swedish School of Textiles/University of Borås (Sweden), Esmod Berlin International University of Art for Fashion (Berlin, Germany), Institut Français de la Mode (Paris, France) and La Cambre (Brussels, Belgium).

Visually Impaired Youth (Sweden), VIEWS International (Belgium), Deutscher blind und Sehbehindertenverband (Germany) and the Fédération des Aveugles (France).

Text: Anna Kjellsson
Translation: Eva Medin
Photo: Vidmina Stasiulyte/Jennie Olsson/Private