Expose Fashion Show

Timeframe

November - December, 2021

Team

Andy, Bill, David and myself

Project Type

+ Speculative design
+ Critical design

What is speculative design?

Speculative design is a design method addressing big societal problems and looking towards the future—and creating products and services for those scenarios. Speculative design tries to imagine what it would be like to design without the current limitations of technology, culture, and politics in mind.

My role

I played a major role during the research phase of the project by proposing a fashion show concept (after researching the impact and influence of high fashion). For the main execution of the project I was responsible for the voice of the project (defining the brand messaging, goals, and motivations). I also partnered with a classmate to act as a model during the final exhibition.

Exploration

Domain

There are many misconceptions about the term disability. The most common use of the term is in reference to individuals in wheelchairs or people with physical deformations. However, disabilities also include neurological or medical conditions that are not immediately apparent, such as mental illness, arthritis or Type 1 Diabetes. Appropriately, Expose Fashion Show intends to inform and educate people of the limitations of invisible disabilities and spark dialogue around the topic of disabilities.

    Ideation

    Initial ideas that were explored involved creating experiences that mimicked disabilities using prosthetics, adaptive fashion or AR glasses. One early concept was “Organ in a Jar,” an artistic artifact that lives in a public space (e.g. work desk or living room).

    This artifact was intended to remind its owner of their strengths, as well as be a talking point to encourage open conversations. While intriguing, this concept did not truly fall within the realm of speculative design and was not pursued further.

    Early concept ideas

    Framing

    The driving force

    Three key themes captured the essence of the difficulties of invisible disabilities. These ideas formed the driving force behind the project and included:

    1. Stigmatization and discrimination

    Social stigma and discrimination can make mental health problems worse and actively prevent a person from receiving the help they need.

    2. Misconceptions

    The proliferation of information sources, real and fake, means society can now choose to reinforce its current beliefs, often dangerously ignoring contradictorily information despite convincing evidence.

    3. Media ignorance

    General ignorance of the true realities of illnesses allows the media to spread incorrect information about invisible illnesses.

    Research

    The impact of high fashion

    The fashion industry's recent work to empower models with visible differences has created and opportunity to push this empowerment one step further towards the realm of invisible disabilities.

    The importance of models

    As some of the most idolized people in the world, models who are transparent about their differences can have a huge impact on their audience. Their large social media platforms allow them to drive traffic and bring awareness to important issues such as muscular dystrophy, down syndrome, Type 1 diabetes and more.

    A few empowering models of high fashion

    Speculative precedents

    When developing the speculative strategy, it was helpful to explore multiple speculative precedents. By exploring invisible disabilities through an art lens, the team was particularly inspired by speculative project “Radio in the Bag” designed by Daniel Weil - this precedent was the inspiration behind Expose’s material design choice. Another was Carmen Papalia’s “Long Cane”, which is a 20ft long cane for those without sight - this project encouraged the team to go to any lengths necessary to convey our key messages.

    Left - Radio in a Bag, Right - Long Cane

    Concept refinement

    Overview

    The final direction of the project is a fashion company that aims to highlight invisible disabilities through wearable fashion. The intended product line consists of various of bags (handbags, purses, backpacks) that have a physical connection to different invisible disabilities, allowing each bag to emphasize one specific disability.

    How might we questions

    How might we questions helped to push the project beyond its initial landing point, including:

    Creating Expose Fashion Show

    Iteration 1: Defining the artifact

    When considering the materials for the product line, transparent plastic was the perfect visual representation to create more transparency surrounding invisible disabilities. When designing each bag for a specific invisible illness, it was essential to focus on the particular organ that was affected by the illness. The bag size was influenced by the organ’s size and the positioning was dependent on the location of the organ in the body.

    Process of defining the pancreatic bag artifact

    Iteration 2: Defining the set

    Sets and displays are a vital part of fashion shows. For Expose, it was necessary to simulate an upscale high fashion bag brand using silky, wrapped, white boxes to add depth to the table and display the artifacts. Additionally, an all-black uniform helped to further immerse visitors and simulate an upscale fashion show.

    Exhibition day

    Final concept

    The main artifact, the "Pancreatic Bag" was created by filling a transparent fanny pack with two 3D printed pancreases, insulin, needles, and a beeping phone (with alerts a diabetic must pay attention to daily). Other supporting artifacts included a website with more details about invisible disabilities, and pamphlets for visitors to take away and reflect on. An enticing poster was also created for the showcase to grab attention.

    Final pancreatic bag and exhibition display poster

    Audience engagement

    Expose successfully engaged with visitors by:

    Exhibition day for the Expose Fashion Show

    Reflection

    While the exhibition could have had a more comfortable environment in order to not intimidate any visitors, Expose appropriately responded the stigmatization of invisible illnesses by creating a safe, public space that opened up transparent discussions about hidden disabilities.

    The model aspect of the exhibition was the most significant method to engage participants in learning and reflection. Minor details such as folding pamphlets or wrapped boxes went far to immerse participants, and the exhibition was able to empower individuals by serving as a great place for visitors with invisible disabilities to engage and share.

    Thanks for reading!