Nearly for all of us every morning begins with the thought about what to wear. What if a person is planning an interview, or a date, or a meeting with friends? But how can a person manage to look stylish, appropriate and on-trend in a certain situation if they cannot check their appearance in a mirror? BlindFashion project was created to answer these questions.
Special View asked Yulia Vasilyeva, a participant of the project, to tell more about it.
New Social Service
BlindFashion project was launched within the framework of Act With No Barriers program, which was initiated by Moscow city branch of the All Russia Association of the Blind, supported by Moscow Department of Labour and Social Protection.
The main goal of our project is to help totally of partially sightless people create and maintain an attractive image. We are forming an association of professional stylists who are able and willing to consult sightless people.
Stylist’s services are expensive, so until recently many visually challenged people could not afford them. It turned out that plenty of fashion experts find working with a new group of clients thrilling, and they are ready to make a big discount.
It is important to point out that we don’t want this project to be charity. Firstly, as we see it, any work must be paid for. Secondly, as a rule, free services are not duly appreciated, and some sightless people take them for granted.
Before getting down to work, we carried out a survey to find out how sightless people go shopping. The results show that 61.5% of the survey participants are helped by their relatives, 50.6% go shopping with their friends and acquaintances, and 41% trust shop assistants.
What is more, 86.4% of those we interviewed would love to engage a stylist to make a choice, and 73.7% are ready to pay a reasonable price for such services.
Audio description: a coloured photo. Photos are scattered across a pale wicker background. These are pictures of pieces of clothing and fashion jewelry. Some pictures show models demonstrating clothing and footwear: light-coloured sneakers, jeans, a cable-knit cardigan.
Meet the Team
Our team consists of six people, and we all apply ourselves to different lines of work. Tatyana Belova is the project’s author and inspirator. She has a candidate’s degree of Philological Sciences, a teacher of foreign languages and a coach. She studies literature and looks for challenging fashion-related projects, including those in English. She gives her attention to every single task within our project. According to Tatyana, since the BlindFashion commenced, she acquired many new skills she had never thought of previously.
Yelena Myasnikova is a tour guide, she creates masterpieces out of beads and studies dramatics. She is actively working with stylists and organizes events.
Anastasia Shchyolokova is a young athlete, she is good at football and track and field athletics. She helps arrange seminars and promotes the project among the youth.
Maria Kasatkina is a professional musician, massage therapist and a person of many talents. She is fond of different types of sport tourism. In this project, Maria is in charge of methodological materials and its financial part.
Our team is not entirely female, because stylists are in demand not only among girls! Sergey Parakhin is a teacher at an orphanage for deaf-blind children, a musician, an actor of inclusive theatre and a person who is always on the jump. Together with Maria he collects materials for methodological recommendations.
And finally me, Yulia Vasilyeva, psychologist and sexologist. I am into cycling and baking. I work with the media, tell sightless people about our project in articles, groups and on social networks.
Moreover, we have partners who share their experience in social project planning and communication with fashion professionals. Our project’s consultant is Yanina Urusova, cofounder of the Bezgraniz Couture project and inclusion consultant. Anna Rykova, fashion stylist and a teacher at British Higher School of Art and Design, helps us train the stylists participating in the project. Olga Steinberg is our project’s PR consultant.
The First Stage
We divided our work into several stages. First of all, we found stylists who were eager to try a new field of work. We asked around at colleges where such professionals were trained. However, we were not able to talk to the students directly, because many were taking their courses online.
Finding the first participants was not easy, but then word of mouth and social networks came into action. At the moment, our project unites more than 20 stylists, both highly experienced professionals and students who are just beginning their career.
We held two training sessions for all those who signed in. One of the sessions was carried out in total darkness. During this workshop, the participants were selecting clothes without seeing or touching our models, they knew only their measurements and could ask a few questions.
After these sessions, the participants shared some interesting observations, and we compiled a list of recommendations for stylists who have recently joined in. The list contains advice concerning how to accompany sightless people while shopping, points to take notice of when buying clothes and so on. Many of our experts had had no prior experience of communication with visually challenged persons, so they asked some thoughtful questions. And we were happy to answer all of them.
Audio description: a coloured photo. Sketches of woman’s clothing are hanging on a white wall. Each of the sketches shows two women wearing dresses or suits.
Working With The Focus Group
Having trained the stylists, we selected several people for our focus group. After working with our experts, they shared their thoughts. The stylists helped them analyze their stock of clothes, accompanied them while shopping and gave a range of recommendations.
To allow sightless people from other cities to benefit from the project, we launched a series of online lessons from our stylists. Through these lessons, one can get acquainted with our experts and learn a lot about the world of fashion and about choosing clothes, and also ask questions.
Why Do We Need Stylists
Some people think that stylists do nothing more than choose the clothes that suit a person. But this is merely one of the services a professional stylist performs. A stylist is an expert who can create a unique image for a person to achieve a complete and harmonic look. A professional stylist can combine different pieces of clothing and accessories depending on the impression the customer wants to produce. A stylist can also inform a client about current trends and fashions.
Stylists and image-makers do not work solely with stars or celebrities. They can help choose clothing of any price range, in mass market as well as in brand shops. It all depends on a client’s preferences and budget.
A stylist helps save time, he or she knows the way the clothes are displayed in shops, easily defines the required size, knows brands and prices and may be engaged at a convenient day and time.
Trendy Sightless Channel
Our project’s stylists wondered what was the most detailed and understandable way to explain the subtleties associated with personal image to sightless people. Some started recording live broadcasts on Instagram, others began taking part in various workshops. Olga Tudakova set up a YouTube channel for trendy sightless people that one can freely subscribe to.
Olga tells: “I wish that after working with a stylist, a sightless person would be able not only to obtain the service, but to assess its results. Using the new knowledge such sightless person would be able to try and work on their individual style on their own. On my channel, there are rather detailed lectures, where I give more information than during my usual courses on personal style. I dwell upon colours and their combinations, on ways to define one’s body type on one’s own and to accentuate its pluses, on basic pieces of clothing in a person’s stock, on various styles and accessories and so on. My goal is to give people a roadmap that will help them assess the work of a stylist or a shop assistant.
There is also a series of short vids ‘Talking About Style At a Coffee Break’. In these videos I give definitions to fashion terms, analyze images from fashion shows or simply elegant ensembles I’ve found, answer the questions from my subscribers. I try to give extensive descriptions of all pictures and pay attention to every detail. With time, my viewers should be able to form their own conception of today’s trends, of good or poor looks. Sightless people cannot see the way stars or their friends are dressed, so they try to find the type of clothes they are accustomed to, but such clothes may have gone out of fashion long ago.
This is my first experience of giving lectures to sightless people, so I take into account the feedback that I get in comments and in direct messages. It is very important for me”.
Audio description: a coloured photo against a light-toned background. Warm-coloured clothes are shown on white wooden hangers placed on a rack: a beige jersey, a milky cable-knit cardigan, a brown sweater, a white coat and other pieces of clothing. To the left of the rack, there are two fluffy whisks of dried reeds.
Plans and Prospects for Development
Now we are close to completion of our project’s website, where the services of our stylists will be displayed. Any sightless person will be able to fill an application form, choose a type of service that suits them and go on a journey into the amazing world of fashion. In order to make the choice even easier, we are planning to introduce rating system and enable people to give us feedback.
We hope that this new social service will give completely or partially sightless persons an opportunity to feel more confident, create a suitable image, display their inner individuality through their appearance and develop a sense of style.
We already have experts from other cities participating in BlindFashion, and we wish to extend our project’s geography. Many new fascinating ideas and essential questions came up in course of our work. The pilot phase will be over soon, but we are trying to find new sources of financing, attract new partners and stylists to develop our project.