Social Entrepreneurship is a popular term in the modern start-up driven society. To some extent, most of us aspire to be a part of the positive social change. Bezgraniz Couture™ is one of the most inspiring, highly-educational and most of all, actually needed positive fashion project serving at least 18% of the global population.
Bezgraniz Couture™ (Fashion without Borders) was our best fashion discovery at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia SS17. It’s a positive fashion movement (so much more than a brand) enabling fashion consumers with disabilities to dress with ease and wear the clothes they like. It’s hard to imagine that putting on a jacket can be your daily struggle. What about wearing a stylish pair of trousers for your date? Or a pair of shoes with both looking the same? What if your body insecurities are not your unwanted +/- 5 pounds? What if your insecurities are living in your head, forever?
I put on my new jacket and suddenly I was dressed, while my brain took two more seconds to understand it, – Igor, 27-year-old IT expert with cerebral palsy.
Praised by their customers and endorsed by celebrities, Bezgraniz Couture™ is growing to become a global project. During their SS17 catwalk at LA Fashion Week, Hollywood actress Angela Rockwood and US Paralympians were among the fashion models who showcased the new collection.
Fashion Bloc speaks with Janina Urussova, co-founder of Bezgraniz Couture™ about the positive fashion that enables.
Fashion Bloc: When was Bezgraniz Couture™ launched, and how it all started?
Janina Urussova: Bezgraniz Couture™ was founded in 2010 by Tobias Reisner and me. We both wanted to create a project of functional modern clothes and accessories for people with different types of disabilities. It started with the Annual International Design Contest “Bezgraniz Couture™ INTERNATIONAL FASHION AND ACCESSOIRE AWARD” that we organised in 2011 and 2012. The finalists came to Moscow to show their collections. The contest was a unique international and professional event, which raised awareness to “universal design” and clothing for people with unique body measures and individual needs.
Since 2015, Bezgraniz Couture™ has been collaborating with British Higher School of Art and Design Moscow (BHSAD). During the educational course WearABLE Future students are working on prototypes of adaptive clothing. As a final year project, students present their collections on regular shows of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia in Moscow, including this year.
Today, Bezgraniz Couture ™ specialises in garments constructed to meet the demands of the wearers and to access a lifestyle associated with dignity and self-esteem, using a combination of hi-tech fabrics and technologies. The SS17 collection REVOLUTIONARIES, which was first showed during LA Fashion Week, blends style and function for wheelchair users, amputees, people with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and those with mobility restrictions.
Having a prosthetic leg, I face two problems: first, it’s not easy to find pants or jeans where my prosthetic goes in without trouble, and second, I have a constant need to buy new pairs of jeans, because the prosthetic damages the material. Bezgraniz Couture solves both, – Dimitry, TV host and a member of the Russian Paralympic Swimming Team.
FB: What is Bezgraniz CoutureTM?
JU: What we are doing is creating a platform, where designers, investors, manufacturers, writers and visual artist, as well as people with disabilities, are coming together to create a new way of life, new products and solutions. We created a new way to promote and communicate disability, to talk about disability, which we call “rebranding of disability”. It is a new intellectual and visual approach. Our goal is to enhance the lives of more than 18% of the human population: people with disabilities (PWD) and their families, friends and caregivers. Our partner in designing of the clothes is the BHSD, Anna, Vladimir and their students.
FB: Can you briefly describe your process of creation? The clothes are very functional and technical; does it involve a lot of research and development?
JU: Of course, the process of creation requires a lot of research – it is not just an ordinary fashion collection, it should tailor individual special needs, but within the scope of the industrial manufacturing, not individual tailoring. The most important thing – we are working close with models with disabilities, who are our expert consultants. It goes in line with the UN Convention on the Disability Rights: “Nothing about us without us”.
Finally, it is great to estimate the results during our positive fashion shows. What I love is to see that everyone looks so great and stylish and you can feel the confidence glowing from within the models. Seeing that confidence that mere clothes can provide, reminds me of how important clothing can be to your self-esteem. The collection boasts that inclusion and fashion are for everyone.
FB: Who are your target customers?
JU: Our target group is young man and woman with disabilities. We work with and for active members of society age 19+; they all have families, jobs and hobbies. Our clothes are also suitable for people without disabilities who like our style and high technical quality.
FB: Your catwalks look very inspiring – who are your models?
JU: In 5 years we have acquired a database of about 300 young men and women from Russia, California and all over the world, who applied to be our models. More than 100 people walked down the runway in Moscow and Los-Angeles during the past five years at the five shows. After we had discovered that our catwalk had become a starting point for some of our former models, to create their own project, to become an advocate for PWD, or to change the way they live, we started to look for new faces among active community members.
Like, for example, one of our models, a 25-year-old Natascha with Down Syndrome, never spoke before the moment she was dressed and styled for the photo shoot at Bezgraniz Couture. She said ‘Yes!’.
This year, among others, British amputee top model, the member of MOD (Models of Diversity Agency) Jack Eyers participated in our show at MBFW Russia. In fact, Jack visited Russia to take part in Bezgraniz CoutureTM project.
FB: Can you tell us a little bit more about your clients – what needs do they have which able-bodied people ignore or don’t understand?
JU: People without disabilities ignore the advantages that they have in their daily lives. In the meantime, people with cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, people having to live in a wheelchair, or those who have autism, have survived radical mastectomy – they have to invent new methods of dealing with daily life. Things we consider to be “normal” like for example zipping your jeans or even getting into the jeans, it is a struggle to some of us.
Our clothes have a modern and minimalist aesthetic solution and are tailored to fit individual body forms and needs. Creating new types of silhouettes and constructions to cater the people with different disabilities we demonstrate that design can and should be used beyond the changing trends.