Meet the fashion graduate designing adaptive clothing for people with Parkinson’s


Author: Sophie BatesPublished: 5 March 2020

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When fashion graduate Monika Dugar’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years ago, she noticed a gap in the market for adaptive clothing – and decided she wanted to do something about it.

We talk to the aspiring designer about ‘Reset’ – her project to develop stylish-yet-functional clothing that could improve mobility in people with Parkinson’s

Tell us about the inspiration behind your clothing project.

I became involved in researching the condition after my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years ago. At first, his symptoms weren’t very severe, but in the last three years his dressing routine has become very difficult, his tremors have become more prominent and he freezes – which is why I began looking into adaptive clothing for people with Parkinson’s.

While studying at the London College of Fashion, UK, I read research papers and watched TED talks on the topic, looked into the concept of visual control of locomotion, and created a survey alongside campaigner Emma Lawton who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s aged 29.

Why is the project named ‘Reset’?

It’s on the concept of resetting the brain in people with Parkinson’s through patterns with optical illusion. I based my research on a study published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology – which is where I found that when someone with Parkinson’s looks at certain patterns, it could improve their mobility through visual cues. I used magnets, Velcro, soft fabrics and print in the clothing designs.

How did your father respond to the clothing?

He was really happy. Before he saw my work, he wasn’t aware of adaptive clothing – so he’s really glad that I know so much about it. When a parent is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it’s not only them that suffers, but the whole family. For us, it has been eye-opening to see how small changes to clothing could make such a difference to someone’s life.

Monika Dugar

What feedback did you receive from people with Parkinson’s?

I have had really positive feedback for my project. Obviously, there are some elements that need changing, but I’m still learning.

I don’t think that many people are aware of some of the potential solutions that can be made with adaptive clothing, especially with optical illusion in the print. There are currently very few shops for adaptive clothing. Every brand right now should be creating adaptive clothing – we need it on the market.

How important do you think it is for adaptive clothing to have an element of style? 

I think it is really important and I really want to be able to combine the two. With young onset Parkinson’s, people are getting diagnosed in their twenties.

It doesn’t matter if you have Parkinson’s or not, I think it is very important for people to adjust. We need to raise awareness and make clothing more inclusive because features, design, and print can help people to gain confidence. Balancing fashion through functional clothing is not a trend – it’s a necessity. I think my work will inspire people – that’s the main thing.

What are your plans for the future of your project?

My plan is to send my clothing samples to people across healthcare to really see what the faults are in my collection, so that we can change and customise it accordingly.

Not everyone has the same problems with dressing, so I want the clothing to fit a range of different people’s needs. I want to speak with doctors and see how we can change people’s lives. I definitely want to create more lines, more elements, more of everything. I’m constantly updating my research.

I’m so happy that I have been able to work towards my passion while also helping people – that has always been my dream. I really want to take this forward and help others in as many ways as I can. I am currently working in digital marketing because I want a better grasp of marketing to allow me to move forward with my designing. Maybe in the future I will be looking into adaptive clothing for other conditions.

Monika Dugar is currently fundraising to continue researching her project and design a collection that will “reinvent conservative adaptive clothing”. Find out more here.

Read more: 

Tonya’s trends: fashioning Parkinson’s fundraisers out of designer clothes 

 12 of the best domestic tools for people with Parkinson’s 

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