How can we make sure that everyone has the same options?
The world of fashion is all about perfection, beauty and flawlessness. People with disabilities are often not catered for in this exclusive world, despite there being a great demand for beautiful, well-made and perfectly fitting clothes. After all, being stylish and fashion-forward have nothing to do with an individual's body shape.
There are around 50,000 people in Germany living with Down's syndrome, and they're all trying to find a well-fitting shirt. People with Down's syndrome have a different body shape, meaning that off-the-rack shirts tend not to fit them properly: the collar is too narrow, the sleeves too short and the shirt itself too long.
30-year-old Lisa, a fashion designer based in Munich, has set up a project called "hemdless", together with her colleague Christian, 25. The aim of the project is to make sure that people with Down's syndrome finally have access to the same clothing options as everyone else.
This idea developed into "Hemdless", a small collection of shirts for people with Down's syndrome. The name of the collection, which means "shirtless" in English, is a reference to the lack of options that currently exist for these people in the clothing industry, and for Lisa and Christian, the idea behind "Hemdless" was to give people with disabilities the option of having their own individual style and of wearing clothes that made them feel good. In order to bridge the gap between the clothes available for disabled and non-disabled people, the pair also designed a shirt that can be worn both by people with and without Down's syndrome, with the message here being: we're all the same.
Generation25 rejects the social categorisation of people. For them, it's not a question of "them" or "us"; everyone should have access to the same choices in life. A consensus was quickly reached on this topic too at the #Deutschland25 discussion. Creating the same choices for everyone starts with "tolerance and acceptance" (Rita, 32), and should be a "basic right in our society. Nobody should be discriminated against"" (Karolijn, 25)
But having the same choices also means that everyone has the opportunity to develop freely as an individual, which is something that Peter, 25, makes an important point on: "Having access to the same choices is a prerequisite for individual expression, as it allows people to show the world who they want to be."
For Generation25, "equal" does not relate to adaptation or conformity, but rather to the idea of everyone being able to establish different paths for themselves within our society. Paths that lead to different people with different personalities.
"It should be less about having the same choices and more about having tailor-made choices: the personalisation of products." (Jennifer, 25)
The response by Stefanie, 32, to the question of whether we will be able to ensure that everyone has access to the same choices in the future, is not only a good summary of the discussion. It also formulates a really concrete set of guidelines that not just Generation25 but everyone should try to observe:
"Change your perspective! What are the day-to-day perceptions and experiences of the person I'm talking to? If I know this, then I can respond to it accordingly".
Lisa and Christian from "Hemdless" want to be able to reach even more people in future. The Internet, and blogs in particular, have been a good first step in allowing them to tell people about their project and generate attention; after all, awareness and visibility are the first step in bringing about change. Lisa and Christian are hoping to find a cooperation partner for their project; ideally a large fashion label with whom they can collaborate to bring out a small collection: bringing a niche fashion brand to the masses. Everyone should have the opportunity to develop freely as an individual, and to express themselves however they wish. Maybe it's just a case of taking more care to get to know our fellow human beings and to find out about their problems and needs. Using our heart, eyes and understanding to become more sensitive and aware of inequalities. Generation25 shows us how it's done.