Geeta Castelino — social psychologist, educationist and corporate trainer in design and fashion technology — was Consulting Director, L.S.Raheja School of Art following which has been board member of several universities. That's not all. She taught History of Indian Costume and Textiles in Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland. And is proud recipient of nine national awards, four state awards and five International awards in the field of art and design. In conversation with the powerhouse lady in the run- up to an adaptive design contest by Ekansh Trust, where her role includes championing the cause of adaptive fashion to the Head of institutes and sensitising students on its challenges to inspire them to design something extraordinary and empowering. The beginning of a movement to make adaptive fashion, mainstream.


Geeta, what drives your passion for inclusive design?


There have been several incidents which I have faced myself, being Polio-afflicted from childhood, and professionally as a social psychologist whenever I have counselled the physically challenged… the visible challenges they face when it comes to comfortable fashionable garments is due to the absence of adaptive clothing. It is a real issue. I believe each one of us should lead a dignified life and it should not be compromised by individuals or society at large. Being an educationist, conceiving and developing curriculums in textiles and design since three decades, I've been trying to help inculcate in students the importance of adaptive clothing. In fact, I've begun designing inclusive clothing for myself and due to this I'm aware to the sensitivities of other PwDS.


Can you share light on the psychological and physical difficulties faced by PwD when it comes to daily wear?


Each disability has its own challenges and each PwD has his or her own set of difficulties depending on the percentage of handicap. For example, those who wear callipers on their feet need design adaptations for trousers or jeans, pyjamas or churidars. They need special design attention and they also need to select fabric which doesn't tear due to the calliper. The wheelchair-bound should wear something which doesn't feel uncomfortable while being transferred from the wheelchair to a chair, bed or vehicle. The adaptation required for designing these garments needs a lot of thought to understand their needs as well as how comfortable and stylish these garments could be. With the visually impaired, difficulty lies in depending on somebody to select clothes from the closet, buttoning- zipping the shirt- dress- trouser. To design something that the visually impaired can independently select from their closet requires deep perception. For the mentally challenged, it is the helper who should be able to quickly help the person. Comfort is essential. If they are not comfortable they may tear the garment, pull it awkwardly or get irritable due to the uncomfortable fit. Further, when one meets with an accident or fractures a hand, leg or even a finger it is difficult to wear garments. And lets not forget that when an individual undertakes the task of undressing, bathing and dressing PwD day after day, adaptive garments is a great help!!


Is there a difference between India and the rest of the world when it comes to adaptive fashion? If so, why?


There are a few brands who have begun creating specially designed clothes for PwD, overseas. In India, a couple of designers are working individually with PwDs or NGOs but we need to sensitise the industry at large and help them understand the concept. And what better way to begin than at educational institutes as fashion design students of today are designers, merchandisers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. They are the ones who can take this movement forward.


There are so few designers who have adaptive clothing as a part of their collections. Why is this so?


Designers need to be sensitised to challenges faced by PwD… unless it is a family member, a friend or someone known, it is not even thought of. Consider this — if each mall or design store has a tailor in the alteration department who can make little changes in the garment being sold… it could be a very welcome beginning!!


You are an educationist- you research textiles and develop curriculums. How would you advise design institutes to make adaptive fashion part of the curriculum and to bring into their classrooms- PwD- to meet students and collaborate with them so that design is a holistic process?


Institutes should inculcate this subject into their curriculum through modules, projects, interactions with NGOs, training faculty etc. Since the past two years we have been visiting universities and fashion institutes to interact with students and I am witnessing a change.


Geeta, you are a corporate advisor. Please share your perspective on this statement: "Adaptive clothing is not just to make a fashion statement or for functionality but for better employment." 


How you present yourself is important and it is seen through dressing. It is important for the PwD to feel confident, smart and stylish as that has a positive impact on themselves, their colleagues and clients. It inspires them to become more productive and in turn this boosts their self- esteem when others appreciate their capabilities. This makes the PwD independent within an organisation, to lead life effectively, and also be an inspiration for many.


How would you urge corporates to join this movement for a better future?


Corporates can sensitise employees by inviting experts in the field to hold interactive workshops and also by employing PwDs who are successful in their personal and professional lives to conduct workshops and interactive sessions with existing PwD employees.


Do you feel AD-DRESS NOW by Ekansh will help in establishing adaptive apparel as a full-fledged category in mainstream Fashion- by involving institutes and educating the next generation of designers?


I want AD-DRESS NOW to become not just a National but Global sustainable movement. I have begun addressing institutes, university vice chancellors, professors and students in India.We have to sensitise educational institutes which will become a part of inclusive education. My role is to advise Ekansh Trust to get in touch with Fashion institutes in India, meeting the Head of the institutes, sensitising and guiding students on the disability challenges and to inspire participants to design something extraordinary. I am helping them create designs keeping in mind comfort, practicality and a style statement in mind. It is passion which has brought us together to take it to the next level.

AD-DRESS NOW Geeta Castelino



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