“When you have content the form almost finds itself automatically.”
Berlin turned into a catwalk this week. Fashion Week Berlin attracts designers and everyone who is influential in fashion. Movers and shakers in the fashion industry, media representatives and celebrities came together in Berlin to see the trends of the next season.
Fashion also played an important role for S2S Berlin this week, but not with fashion on the catwalk or what you would buy in a boutique – not yet at least.
The world of fashion often focuses on beauty, perfection or flawlessness and it doesn’t stop there. The cuts of clothing are designed for bodies with certain proportions, neglecting those with a different physique, plus size folks, and people with physical disabilities. Lisa Polk and Christian Schinnerl dealt with this topic and designed clothing for people with Trisomy21– Down Syndrome. As clothes off the rack do not fit, due to sleeves that are too short, collars that are too tight or simply the length of the shirt that doesn’t suit their body proportions, they decided to start creating a shirt collection. Stefanie Tendler of S2S talked to Polk and Schinnerl about their amazing project.
S2S: How did the idea evolve to create clothing for people with Down Syndrome?
Lisa Polk: We have been good friends and share a passion for fashion. On a trip to a fashion show in Antwerp we were talking about Chris’ uncle, who has Trisomy21 and can’t wear shirts off the rack. Chris at that time was planning to sew him a customized shirt for his 50th birthday.
Christian Schinnerl: Lisa liked the idea and started to ponder, whether other people with Trisomy21 had the same problems finding fitting shirts, so she suggested we start working on a collection. Since her mother used to work in the care home Steinhöring, we had a direct contact point.
S2S: You cooperated with the care home Steinhöring close to Munich and involved a small group of people in the formation of your project. What kind of experiences did you have during this cooperation?
CS: For a short period of time we were allowed to be part of a small community. We gained an insight of life in the care home and after a while were able to understand certain processes. We were able to enrich our social abilities and understand the difficulties in organizing a larger group of people while planning certain routines. Yet, we especially realized how important functional designs are for clothing.
S2S: A Shirt was the first piece of clothing you designed for people with Down Syndrome. Are you planning on expanding to other articles of clothing suitable for their physique?
LP: Since we realized the importance of functional clothing we will continue concentrating on this aspect in our designs. The project itself consisted of a small collection of only five shirts. If we can find a sponsor that is willing to support us, we will certainly have further designs.
S2S: You named the collection “hemdless” [shirtless]. On one hand the name stands for the lacking offer in regular department stores. What other connotations does the name have for you?
LP: With regards to content we thought the name was very fitting. From a design point of view we really like the lettering. While we were developing our logo (A collar without a shirt) our visual appearance suddenly became clear and everything began to follow suit. When you have content the form almost finds itself automatically.
S2S: Are you in touch with sponsors or financiers that are willing to support your idea in making the collection available to the 50.000 Germans with Trisomy21?
CS: Unfortunately not yet, we are open for any kind of cooperation and support of our project.
S2S: Do you have any long term, sustainable goal that you want to achieve with your idea?
CS: Long term and sustainable in the sense of keeping people aware of the topic, not allowing them to forget. Our project Hemdless was successfully completed with the five shirts we designed, sewn and photographed. Now we are at the point where we need to make it available to more people, but unfortunately need the monetary basis for doing so.
S2S: Did you have any outstanding experiences during the working phase that you would like to share?
CS & LP: We were surprised by the modeling potentials. Veronika Rehm was very shy in the beginning, but after a short adaptation phase she was totally open and showed us what she really is about. Jimmy Clark also drew complete attention to himself during the shooting. It was moving to see how involved everyone was after a certain point and how much fun we all had working together on this project.