Fashion student designs range to fit different shapes, sizes
25 Feb 2021
By Aphiwe Bulo
A 22-year-old fashion design student with a congenital spinal defect, is promoting the need for inclusivity in fashion and custom-made clothing in her latest graduate collection for persons with disabilities.
Laura Wagner-Meyer produced The New Normal collectionas part of her third-year BA Fashion Design assignment at Fedisa Fashion School in Cape Town. It included fiveoccasion–wear looks that were custom made for women with different disabilities, designed to make them feel beautiful and comfortable.
“I put women in the forefront not only to promote inclusivity, but to create awareness of persons with disabilities and empower other women with disabilities who may see this collection,” she told ThisAbility.
Four women were approached to model the designs with Wagner-Mayer, who wore a plum red dress that was part of her evening set. Other designs included a wrap dress and a pants suit. Three models were wheelchair users.
Wagner-Meyer came up with an original concept for cohesive designs that matched each model’s personality and needs with their body shape, size and ability by using the same patterns, designs and colours. She considered the lengths of the jackets and tops because most had a shorter abdomen. Soft fabrics like lace and silk were used to accommodate those who were hypersensitive to textures so that they experienced less irritation. Zips and buttons were not used on the garments.
“It was the first time doing something like this. It was very exciting, and I stepped out of my comfort zone. I felt gorgeous,” said Britney Hendricks who wore Look 2: The Britney Dress Set.
Wagner-Meyer started marketing the brand, designs and models on Instagram page @younique_inclusivewear from June to October 2020. She would post teasers leading to the final collection, by including behind-the-scenes graphics from the photo shoot and quotes from fashion designers. Hashtags such as #inclusionmatters and #femaleempowerment were used to engage with followers and models.
Close friend and fellow Fedisa student, Cassidy Hartslief, was asked to help with the preparations. She conducted house-to-house fittings, driving them to the studio for the photo shoot and the venue for Critique Day when they presented the models and designs to the panel of judges.
“Everything in the collection was well thought out. The fashion industry needs more people like Laura who understand its significance and are willing to pay attention to detail, because they can relate to the situation,” said Hartslief.
Wagner-Meyer worked with two third–year academic head lecturers, Lucia Uhlikova and Mariella Avvakoumides. “The collection showed us a new approach to design for differently abled persons and presented us with great enthusiasm for new developments in design and pattern making,” said Uhlikova.
Wagner-Meyer grew up in East London, Eastern Cape. Her interest in fashion design started when she was a Stirling High School pupil. She participated in the Da Gama textile company’s fashion design competition for consumer studies classes, which ran for two years.
She is currently studying towards an honours degree and plans to write a thesis on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in fashion. She has also partnered with the Chaeli Campaign to host leadership workshops in East London. The co-founder,Chaeli Mycroft, was featured in the collection, and wore Look4: The Chaeli Power Suit.
“I have learned that anything is possible, and we have the ability and the skills to make it happen. I have also learned to persevere and stay focused on the end goal,” Wagner-Meyer said.