Hello Sema, first of all, how are you? What are your resolutions for 2021?
Hi, I'm doing great. The status of my resolutions for 2021 is »work in progress«.
Many of our followers, supporters, readers, and customers already know you, of course, but maybe you'd like to recapture how it all started with AUF AUGENHOEHE?
Yes, sure! I came into contact with the topic of dwarfism at a very early age because my cousin Funda has dwarfism. When I visited her in Turkey and we went shopping together, for example, I witnessed first-hand the challenges she faces every day. And as it turned out after research and many conversations, there were simply no good options for people with dwarfism for buying ready-to-wear clothing, and it was apparent that the fashion world was exclusive, not inclusive. During my fashion design studies I decided to change this.
And why do you do it? What is important to you when it comes to AUF AUGENHOEHE?
In my projects, I have always dedicated myself to socially relevant topics. Especially the areas that are often ignored and overlooked have interested me.
When I observe current trends in the fashion world and especially in social media, such as self-love, body positivity, or even sustainability, I notice that the visibility of people with disabilities has not quite arrived in the mainstream yet. For me, adaptive fashion is not a trend, it is the equal visibility of and inclusion for people with disabilities that we need to demand further and louder.
In a society where individuality and self-determination are becoming more and more important, we must not forget the people who have socially-created barriers standing in their way. From deciding what clothes to wear to choosing where to live: our society does not yet offer many people enough or the same opportunities for self-determination. I think clothes are an essential element to function in society - fashion is an effective tool for one's own individuality and identity. We have to take these steps - and again, we cannot close our minds to inequality.
Beyond fashion, people with disabilities are also underrepresented in the media and in the public sphere. Both have the effect that a lack of visibility of people with disabilities creates a coexistence instead of a togetherness. In addition, the topic of disability is not dealt with openly and without fear in society. It is therefore no wonder that taboo subjects require special sensitivity and that inhibitions have arisen and hardened in dealing or not dealing with them. Our recommendation here is quite clear: First listen and understand! I am a great believer in the motto: »Nothing about us without us« – to quote the disability community. In order for fashion to become truly inclusive, we have to work together to break down old norms, in the mind, in politics and in society, and that is exactly what is important to me at AUF AUGENHOEHE.
»For me, adaptive fashion is not a trend, it is the equal visibility of and inclusion for people with disabilities that we need to demand further and louder.«
What do you wish for all labels that, just like AAH and of course you, put a socially-conscious mission first in order to make a positive difference in this world?
What I miss in the fashion industry is true inclusion and to think differently and celebrate differences. At AUF AUGENHOEHE we have made it our mission to show the fashion industry how equal treatment of people whose body measurements deviate from conventional proportions can be practically implemented. For us, participation in the fashion world means above all an attitude of solidarity. Only lived inclusion can actually make social change possible. Fashion is an impetus and the instrument for change in our society and the economy. I would like all labels to recognize their global responsibility. On the one hand, this includes actively combating discrimination and the violation of human rights along the entire value chain, from design and production to sales. On the other hand, it also includes taking ecological responsibility for the creation of clothing products.
What is special about AUF AUGENHOEHE? From product to vision? What is important to you?
AUF AUGENHOEHE is a company that produces fashion for people with dwarfism with the idea of making the fashion industry more diverse and inclusive. For this purpose, I measured people with dwarfism worldwide and developed the first clothing size system. It is particularly important to me to think about inclusion in fashion holistically and to always question the status quo. Who has what access to fashion and lifestyle? Who is not at the table? To solve this, we work closely with our community, which consists of people with and without dwarfism. Through the close exchange and years of cooperation with our community, we create designs and collections that are ready-to-wear. In this way, we sustainably produce only products that are wanted and needed. In the future, we will work with more designers and create garments together. The diversity within our global community reflects the DNA of our company. This is also why, in addition to our fashion for people with dwarfism, we offer products for everyone - regardless of body size or proportion.
Shouldn't we create a world without sizes, or norms, to solve the hurdles of inclusion (beginning size chart needed, intelligent, adaptive products, technology reference, …)?
Our vision, of course, is to live in an inclusive and equal world - for all people. Ready-to-wear fashion, or ready-made clothing, has been the standard in the clothing industry for many decades. Through this democratization process, it was suddenly possible for many more people to obtain suitable and fashionable clothing. However, ready-to-wear has only catered to a supposed mass market for far too long. In an attempt to offer fashion for all, fashion was offered for a certain type of figure. People with dwarfism were not included and were not further defined as a target group by the fashion industry.But these days, suitable, comfortable and fashionable clothing should be accessible to everyone, shouldn't it? That's why I first developed a clothing size system for people of small stature. In this way, I create equal access to clothing products for the first time. I never wanted to invent the next special product in this process. In this development, I was always concerned with equal access. You don't have to reinvent processes for that, but simply redesign them creatively.
So, I measured people with dwarfism all over the world and collected body data. To analyze the proportions and derive the corresponding clothing sizes, I developed a suitable software together with my team. We are still measuring people with dwarfism and optimizing our data. This is especially important to be able to guarantee a perfect fit. Research never stands still here. In the next phase, we will redefine the sizing system as a whole. The goal, of course, is to free ourselves from the »conventional« sizing systems and standardizations and thus create equal participation in fashion and lifestyle.
One question specifically about the current situation in the fashion world: where do you see potential and opportunities for our customers?
I notice that more and more companies are becoming interested in the topic of adaptive fashion and are dealing with it. For example, we are getting more and more inquiries from people, organizations, and institutions who want to work with us in various ways.
»Traditional approaches need to be radically redefined - whether that means an inclusive catwalk, a sustainable value chain, accessible design, or digital tools.«
The current pandemic has brought many challenges to people all over the world, but it has also brought new ideas. No matter whether they are new business models, new products or services. Companies are challenged to rethink old structures. After all, the fashion world thrives on breaking traditions. So why cling to an exclusionary tradition? Traditional approaches need to be radically redefined – whether that means an inclusive catwalk, a sustainable value chain, accessible design, or digital tools. The coronavirus crisis offers companies the chance to finally digitize themselves and redesign built-up structures - in the best way: more inclusive and diverse. Especially now, when many people work in a home office, it becomes clear how important it is to use digital tools that make daily work easier. We are all learning and becoming more aware that digital participation and especially inclusion is important - everywhere.