Julie Meunier über „Getting Dressed When You Are Getting Old“

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Der Prozess des Alterns geht mit zahlreichen körperlichen Einschränkungen einher, die das Alltagsleben zunehmend anstrengender machen.
Als übliche Reaktion auf diese Veränderungen lässt sich bei vielen Menschen eine allmähliche Vermeidung problematischer Aktivitäten beobachten.
Diese Strategie führt im Sinne eines Teufelskreises wiederum zu einer weiteren Einschränkung der vermiedenen Funktion führt.
Die Konsequenzen dieser Probleme sind neben den vordergründigen Schwierigkeiten jedoch auch die Einschränkung sozialer Aktivitäten.

Auch wenn aufgrund dieses Wissens therapeutisch aktiv gegengesteuert werden kann, ist Altern ein Prozess des kontinuierlichen körperlichen Abbaus.
So ergibt sich u.a. für viele körperliche Aktivitäten die Notwendigkeit innovativer Lösungen;
eine dieser Aktivitäten ist das tägliche An- und Ausziehen.
Es ist interessant, dass es in der Vergangenheit nur wenige Versuche gab, sich dieses naheliegenden Themas systematisch anzunehmen, und so ist es umso bemerkenswerter, dass Julie Meunier genau das getan hat.

Aus Sicht einer Produktdesignerin, also „Problemlöserin“, hat sich Julie Meunier, Absolventin des Pariser E.N.S.A.A.M.A Olivier de Serres, National College of Arts and Design, im Rahmen des „James Dyson Award“ Gedanken zu diesem Thema gemacht, und wurde für ihre Lösungen mit dem Dyson French Design Award 2007 geehrt.

Angesichts der demographischen Entwicklung der westlichen Welt hat sie einen Beitrag zu einem Thema geleistet, das in Zukunft noch an Brisanz gewinnen wird.
modabot hat Julie Meunier zu ihrem Projekt „Getting Dressed When You Are Getting Old“, auch im Hinblick auf ästhetisch-modische Anforderungen befragt. Das Interview ist auf englisch wiedergegeben.

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Julie Meunier

You were inspired by the theme “independence. How did you get from there to your particular theme of aging people, what was interesting about it for you?
I firstly got interested in the terms of “autonomy and “independency, what it meant and how these notions were perceived by our society. In everyday life we are all concerned by the situation of getting or losing independency, how to deal with it, how to apprehend it, what changes it makes…?
In a second time, I particularly became interested in the elderly. The present thematic of the ageing of the population has of course influenced my choice. On a personal level, we are all concerned because we are all future “old people.

Could you describe how you approached the project?
I met old people, facing more or less difficulties and I also met the people who help them everyday. I followed them in their everyday life, I talked to them. On this basis, I was able to comprehend problems such as the lack of mobility, tiredness, etc. I really tried to put myself in their situation. I wanted to really feel how difficult it was to make certain gestures. So I built some little gadgets for myself to make my life more complicated such as elastics I would put around my arms so I couldn´t stretch them easily, etc.

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Which objectives did you focus on?
I really tried to make a “common product, something everyone could use in order not to stigmatize the elderly.
Through my project, I wanted to simplify and at the same time keep it beautiful and elegant.

Please name some specific problems that you identified and the solutions that you developed?
The modesty of the people I met and talked to is the biggest issue I had to face. Because my project touches directly people´s modesty. Their appearance is directly linked to their self-esteem. Dressing up just like washing are very personal dimensions and to overcome this problem I spent a lot of time with people so that they can talk to me freely and express their frustrations, their reserve.

Technically, I realised that certain gestures (such as lifting up your arms to put a tee shirt on or stretch your arm in the back to put a jacket on) that were easy for me could be extremely tiring and painful for the elderly. I wanted the piece of cloth to adapt itself to the person and not the contrary.

I wanted a piece of cloth that would be supple and flexible when you put it on but at the same time structured and structuring when you wear it (on the contrary to elastic fabrics that fit closely around the body).
Pleat allowed me to play on the amplitude of the cloth in order to move better when dressing up, undressing and in everyday´s gestures. For example, the collar of the tee-shirt gets bigger to let the head go through easily (this gesture can provoke disequilibrium) and can be closed after in order not to have a low cut around the neck.
Another example, the back of the jacket stretches in order to catch the second sleeve more easily and then finds his shape again underlining the silhouette of the person.

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Did you face problems in reconciling the solutions with an aesthetic imperative? How important was the aesthetic aspect within the project?
Of course aesthetic plays a very big part in my project because it is the appearance of the product that will make it accessible, acceptable and desirable. The notion of dressing for pleasure, self-esteem, and elegance are integral parts of the functionality of this project.
In my plastic researches, I became interested in pleats for ease and also to origami… and this is where I found my solution. Technically and aesthetically.

With your project you entered new territory. Do you see the solutions you developed as a „gold standard“ or do you think there can be other approaches?
Clothing for the elderly is quite a recent universe/business but it´s not completely new either. I did base myself on other solutions that had been previously developed but that I judged too unsatisfying, too traditional or too medical. I think I managed to develop a convincing solution when looking at the constraints I had established particularly the aesthetical and acceptability constraints.
But I am sure there are some more solutions…

Should fashion designers in the future know the topic themselves or should they cooperate with specialists?
It seems important to me that there is a collective awareness of the consequences of life lasting longer and on the changes it implies in the way of living everyday. I think that creative sectors are of course concerned and that they should work on this. But to me the solution is that all trade sectors should work together. As a designer myself working on this project, I met some occupational therapists and nurses who take care of old people in order to get some information and advices.

How do you see the economic potential? Are you interested in pursuing it?
At the economic level, I think my project is very reliable because it is in line with the evolution of society and particularly with the thematic of the population´s ageing and the increasing of the elderly´s buying power. Furthermore, the technical process to realise my project is quite simple, so it is a product that could easily come out today on the market. This work is at the moment on “stand by but I am really planning to work on it again later.

Which fashion designers inspired you in your work and why?
I made this project with the eye of a product designer more than of a fashion designer. I looked for what had been done already in professional wear and by getting interested to pleats I of course checked Issey Miyake´s work.

What is good design for you?
It´s a design that is interested in people and that tries to understand them and their way of living.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
No idea! There are so many possibilities!

Der James Dyson Award ist ein internationaler Designwettbewerb, der innovativen Konstrukteuren sowie Produktdesignern eine globale Plattform zur Präsentation und Förderung ihrer Arbeit bieten will.
Die Aufgabenstellung ist einfach: „Konstruiere etwas, das ein Problem löst.“
Er geht auf den Erfinder James Dyson zurück, der mit seinen Erfindungen die Staubsaugertechnologie revolutioniert hat.
Weitere Informationen zum Dyson Award sowie Kontaktmöglichkeiten finden sich unter
In Deutschland arbeitet der Dyson Award in Kooperation mit dem Rat für Formgebung/German Design Council.