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Monika Dolbniak is a BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear graduate from Poland. She creates adaptive wear for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, inspired by her younger brother and the way he approaches his garments.
I was working in this field for two years on many projects which explored the boundaries that people with autism face with clothes, and the additional requirements that are needed. Within this project I wanted to push my ideas further and focus on delivering and structuring a social therapy through clothes, as a lack of understanding is a common thing that people with autism face.
Each one of the outfits corresponds to a separate therapy, and while I was designing the garments I also designed guidebooks to show the user a specific scenario of how the garment could be worn. For example, the one that shows you how to find friends is very colourful, and in the guidebook you can see that it encourages you to use the garment with other people around you. All the garments have pictograms on them so the user can see what the therapy is for and how to behave while taking part in the therapy. I was more focused on creating tools and accessories rather than fashionable adaptive wear, because I think the main goal of adaptive wear is to be functional.
I want to show that adaptive wear is more than clothes, it needs to be created together with the users. I really hope it will show designers that adaptive wear is no longer an alternative, that it's something that needs to be applied into fashion, because World Health Organization estimates that one in four people is affected with mental health disorders. I think this is a really huge market to show your skills in and there is clearly a demand for it. I hope that this project will show that there is a lot we can do as designers in this field to actually help people and to start designing clothes that apply to their needs, not just what we think it can be or represent.
For me, the most exciting part is that the adaptive wear industry is not that wide. At the moment there are not that many brands that are doing it, so it's very exciting that I have a wide field to show my skills in and can actually propose totally new offers to customers and to fashion.
I’ll be starting my master in Textiles (specialising in Soft Systems) at the Royal College of Art and I can’t wait to meet new people and learn new things. I hope that maybe in a few years the fashion industry will take adaptive wear into consideration more than it is now. I am very excited for it and if not, I will try as a designer to make it happen.
My dream is to create a platform that can gather all of the experts and make adaptive wear more visible. I would really like to share my skills and experience with other people and learn from them as well through a co-creative approach to fashion. I would like to see myself in this kind of platform or maybe in a research centre that focuses on working with the customer, creating new things and testing them.
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