Meet Chennai girl Shalini Visakan who is into the fashion designing world with a unique twist to her design. She is truly a hero without a cape!
- Why did you first decide to become a fashion designer?
Becoming a fashion designer was my dream from a very young age. I had to take care of the family and so I had to postpone my dream at that time. I was 17 when my father passed away in an accident and at that point in time, it was on me to support my family and contribute as much as I can. In order to work and earn, I did my Bachelor of Commerce degree through long-distance education.
- So, when did you finally start pursuing your dreams?
It was post 2009 that I got a chance to awaken the designer in me. I got married in 2009 and my husband Visakan was fully supportive. My husband was a polio survivor from birth and he was wheelchair-bound ever since. That woke the inner designer in me and I decided to do a one-year fashion designing course. I joined National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Chennai and completed the course in the year 2015. I had evening classes which made it easier for me to manage my personal life and my passion.
- How did the idea of adaptive clothing strike you?
My husband is my inspiration and the reason for me to pursue designing. We love travelling and while doing so, I realized that we were facing a lot of difficulties while transferring my husband from his wheelchair seat and also using the wash room because the clothing weren’t comfortable. That is when I decided to design comfortable clothing ranges to choose from. I designed pants with loops which served as a handle to help the people who lift my husband. I also made extra crotch length pants to facilitate the use of urinal cup. Lastly, I designed shirts made with Velcro instead of buttons.
- The story of designing a comfortable, easy-to-wear Saree for your aunt has won the hearts of many. Is there any other such story close to your heart?
The easy-to-wear saree was to facilitate Shalini’s aunt who was wheelchair-bound as well. A woman who loved to visit temples felt quite awkward for wearing nightgowns to the place and hence, Shalini helped her by designing the Saree.
She is actually my husband’s friend’s mother. It was indeed a lovely experience to design something unique for a lovely woman like her. Another memorable moment was when I designed an Indo – western long gown for Abhilasha, an 18-year-old girl who is also a wheelchair user. It took more than four to five attempts for me to make the gown easily wearable. However, when I derived the final version of it, that was the happiest moment of my life.
- What further steps will you take to make the availability of clothes for the specially -challenged or generally people, wider (like online for example)?
Right now, I have not planned about the widespread of it. However, I am freelancing, that is, I am designing and hiring a tailor to stitch the clothing. So, it is more like customization.
- What is your ultimate goal? What heights of career would you aim to reach and what message will you convey when you reach that height?
The concept of inclusive fashion has been non-existent for a really long time even in the western world. The most they have catered to is a few pockets; hence, people with disabilities buy garments and alter it according to their needs and comforts. My aim is to start catering to at least few of their needs and design clothes according to their necessity. The satisfaction and happiness I receive when a differently-abled person feels comfortable in my clothing are unimaginable. Hence, follow your passion and work hard for it because there are no shortcuts for hard work.
My long-term goal is to start a line of adaptive clothing. Adaptive clothing is a fairly new field in Indian wear, so I think that I am still in the beginner’s stage. There is still a long way to go and as long as you enjoy doing something, your journey becomes enjoyable.
- As an entrepreneur what are the difficulties you face?
As an entrepreneur and also the field I have chosen, that is, adaptive clothing, I don’t face any difficulties. As long as I have my husband’s and my family’s support, I am good to go.
- What is the best wear you would recommend this summer?
“Indo-Western is the best for the heat and summer”, recommends Shalini, considering the soaring temperatures, heat and the humidity.