In collaboration with Open Style Lab, MIT


The production centre RogLab from Ljubljana and Open Style Lab from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US are organizing an international collaborative workshop entitled DESIGN (DIS)ABILITY, focused on design, disabilities and assistive technology. The workshop will take place March 30–April 3, 2015, in Ljubljana. On Friday, April 3, a discussion entitled Fashion, Technologies and Physical Disabilities will be held at the City Museum in Ljubljana at 6:00 PM, where the results of the Ljubljana workshop and the one-month working process leading up to it will be presented to the public.



The Ideas Behind the Workshop

The workshop is part of the ongoing project DESIGN (DIS)ABILITY, conceived by the Culturemaker Institute and was launched by RogLab in Spring 2014 with an international creative challenge for the designing of fashion accessory equipment for physically disabled people who use a wheelchair. The project opens up difficult debates in the seemingly frivolous field of fashion design. What is a perfect body? What are the side effects of the fashion industry? Can assistive technologies transgress medical discourse? How can fashion contribute to the cultural equality of disabled people?

The aim of the workshop is to create fashion accessories with and for users with physical disabilities. Over the course of this past month leading up the actual workshop in Ljubljana, the participants have been engaging in the intense onlline preparatory phase of this international collaborative process focusing on universal, user-centered design. Participants have been challenged to create both aesthetically pleasing and functional fashion designs that offset the constraints of disability. In addition to being mentored by an interdisciplinary team of experts from both design and engineering backgrounds, participants are also employing skills in a variety of fabrication techniques, as well as knowledge in basic programming and electronics for wearable technology in order to produce functional prototypes.



The DESIGN (DIS)ABILITY project was created out of a genuine need of a group of users, which coincides with both the crisis of the fashion and textile industry and with the increasing availability of digital fabrication tools. The local disabled population may be too small to be a profitable target market for the fashion industry; however, products for special target groups can represent a commercially interesting niche if we consider the global market. Furthermore, better access to digital fabrication tools enables faster and cheaper prototyping in small quantities.


The needs and experience of the users themselves are central to this workshop. Three volunteers with disabilities – Katarina Milićević, Tanja Pirnat and Silvo Mehle – are participating in all the phases of the workshop: from conceptualization of initial ideas to the testing and final production of the prototypes.



Mentors: Dr Grace Teo, William Li, Sanja Grcić

Mentors: Dr Grace Teo, William Li, Sanja Grcić


Dr. Grace Teo is the co-founder of Open Style Lab. While pursuing her PhD in Health Sciences and Technology at MIT, she received an MIT Public Service Fellowship to establish Open Style Lab. Through multiple partnerships with fashion labels, rehabilitation networks and technology companies, she hopes to bring user-centered and universal design principles into apparel design and to provide a platform for the health and fashion industry to communicate. Grace is originally from Singapore, where she received her B.Eng. at Nanyang Technological University before moving to Boston to complete her Health Sciences and Technology PhD at MIT. She currently holds lecturer appointments in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department and Institute of Medical Engineering and Sciences at MIT.


William Li is the co-founder and president the MIT Assistive Technology Club. Together with Dr. Grace Teo, he is the instructor of “Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology (PPAT)”, a pioneering course at MIT in which student teams design customized assistive devices for people with disabilities that fulfil unmet needs. PPAT projects include an iPhone app for detecting clothing colors and patterns to help blind persons dress independently, and a specialized “no-spill” spoon for persons with spinal cord injuries to eat soup more easily.


Sanja Grcić is co-founder and president of Society for Slovenian Fashion and Textile Design (SOTO) and a renowned fashion designer known for her breakthrough in New York with the company Firma by Sanja. She is recognized for her reflection of social issues in her works and for her celebration of tradition and craftsmanship. She loves to appropriate cultural objects with meanings that have changed over time and invert their usage in her collections: the Slovenian “Avba Coif” (a traditional women’s headgear), the “Borosane” (footgear for women workers in socialism) and “Kekec” hats named after the Slovenian national folklore character.


Organized by: RogLabOpen Style LabMuseum and Galleries of Ljubljana
Supported by
City of Ljubljana, Embassy of the United States - SloveniaMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Partners: Culturemaker Institute, YHD - Association for Theory and Culture of HandicapSlovene Etnographic MuseumFaculty of Health Sciences, University of Ljubljana
Media sponsor of the discussion: VideoLectures.NET
Sponsors:  City Hotel LjubljanaParsons School of DesignBema Fabrics (Svet metraže), Tiskarna Grafos, Čevljarstvo Peta
Thanks to: Biserka Kadak Jurak – Modelling studio, Julijana Markovinović, Anka Štular, Tomaž Lampe, Tomaž Draž, Mustajbašić Tufik