The project “Beyond Seeing – Innover le design de mode sans les yeux”, organized by the Goethe Institute in Paris, aims to convey fashion and design to blind and visually impaired people, through activities that engage the other senses. The project is being developed by design students, together with blind and sighted scientists, designers and artists, and its initial aim is to identify the needs and wishes of blind and partially sighted people when it comes to art. Moreover, it strives to find new approaches to integrate them better into society and give them the same rights as sighted people. The countries participating in the project are Belgium, France, Germany and Sweden.

On the 25th and 26th October a preliminary meeting took place in Paris. The blind and sighted participants met the fashion professors for the first time, which is an essential step to build trust and symbiosis. Round tables and workshops were organized, with blind and sighted experts from different fields (art, film, music etc.), as well as interactive group games.

Views International sent two visually impaired people to the preparatory meeting. Let’s see how Selma and Jhonatan enjoyed their small trip to Paris.

If you want to hear the impressions of some of the organizers and participants, watch this video

Third meeting in Berlin

THe third and last meeting of the project took place in Berlin, between the 3rd and the 6th of April. Here is the account from one of the Belgian participants, Jonathan, who also took part in the two previous meetings.

"Beyond Seeing": Selma's experience at the preparatory visit ​

“Beyond Seeing”: my experience at the preparatory visit

by Selma

On 25th and 26th October I participated in the preparatory visit of “Beyond seeing – Innover le design de mode sans les yeux”, a project organized by Goethe Institut de Paris. The participating countries were Belgium, France, Germany and Sweden, and the project mainly focused on fashion design for visually impaired people. Nonetheless, people with visual problems (me included) were definitely a minority: only 8 (2 per country) out of more than 30 participants, most of whom were sighted design students.

The idea itself is quite interesting: finding a way to enable blind people to perceive colours, patterns and other visual elements, usually perceived through sight. It was only a 2-day preparatory visit though, so of course we couldn’t find the answer yet; we’re therefore looking forward to the next meetings to study the subject more in depth.

The goal of these first days was mainly to explain, through movies and speeches, what being blind is really about. I particularly loved the movie, as it showed various examples of blind people’s lives, giving us interesting and sometimes new perspectives. Personally, I’d like to watch it again and I recommend it to everybody!

When it came to discussing design, a lot of questions were asked, such as: “Is it possible to create without seeing?”. For me, the answer is obvious: of course it is! I would understand the question if we were only talking about matching colours etc.; but “creating” is such an encompassing concept, that I really don’t believe it can only be achieved with the aid of sight. There was a different question in my head though: how can I imagine Paris, if I always stay in the same building? We spent a lot of time discussing and trying to really understand the importance of perceiving through the other senses. And I believe it was the right approach: in order to embark on our journey, we first needed to find the best route!

All in all, it was a very interesting experience for me, and I would like to thank VIEWS and Goethe Institut de Paris for giving me the opportunity to participate.

Beyond Seeing: Jonathan's experience ​

Jonathan Lambert, a young partially sighted person from Liege, tells us about his experience of how he became involved with VIEWS International and took part in the Beyond Seeing project.

I learned about the existence of VIEWS International early in the utumn of 2016 when I was looking for international projects to practice my English and have fun experiences. It is with this in mind that I submitted my application to participate in the “Beyond Seeing” project in September 2016. I was very excited about the idea of the project which was to mix fashion with visual impairment, and so I was very happy to find out that my application had been successful.

I left on the 25th October and 2016 with a group of students from La Cambre de Bruxelles, one of their teachers and Selma, another visually impaired participant. To launch the foundations of this beautiful project. There, I met students from fashion schools in Paris, Berlin and Sweden. The aim of the project was to create innovative concepts in fashion that would go beyond the visual and create an exhibition that would be an interactive and multisensory experience.

Returning from this great trip, I thought the adventure had ended but it turned out that it was just the beginning. I was invited to Brussels in early March 2017 to attend a presentation from the students from La Cambre of their ideas, and to Berlin a few weeks later to finalise the projects of each school.
Coming back from Berlin I again thought the adventure was over, but I had not expected Scriba Kathirina, the instigator of the project to invite me to the opening of the final exhibition on the 18th of January 2018 at La Villette Parc in Paris.

It is therefore with pleasure that I joined the opening of the exhibition on the evening of 18 January and was able to see the finalised work created through the collaboration of fashion students and people with visual impairments. It was an exceptional experience for me and I would highly recommend everyone to check out the exhibition, which you can do byclicking here.

Beyond seeing - innover le design de mode sans les yeux (third meeting)​

I left from Zaventem Airport with the professor from the school in Brussels. At our arrival, we went to their hotel (I slept with the students), where we met again the professor and the partially sighted girl from Paris. For me, it was more like seeing them for the first time than meeting them again, as I had hardly mixed with people from the other schools when we were in Paris. I got along very well with that partially sighted girl, as we think alike in many respects.

After that, we went to the school, where we were welcomed by Katharina Scriba (the person in charge of this project) and by the school owners. A very nice buffet supper was waiting for us at our arrival, so we had lunch at the school before starting.

We were gathered in a big hall and we were devided into five groups (1 student from every school + 1 partially sighted + 1 Architecture student: they joined us in Berlin to manage all that had to do with stage design). The Berlin students guided their groups for a tour of the school. Afterwards, every student of the group suggested an activity that had already been organized in his own school. The day ended with another buffet, with all the food that we participants had brought with us (as for me, I brought a typical meat meal from Liège). During the dinner, some people tried to taste something that was apparently Swedish, but no one managed to chew on that terribly salty stuff.

The day after, we watched some videos from each school, which showed some of the work that had been already done. Afterwards, we had lunch in a small cozy restaurant close to the school. After that we went to a museum and we met the owner, who turned out to be partially sighted himself. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear much of what he said, as I felt a bit ill. I was told that he’d lost his sight at a young age due to an accident. However, he was operated about ten years ago and regained some of it. Afterwards, we visited the museum, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have due to the state I was in.

On Wednesday, we tried to find the answer to three questions:

  • Can the world exist without images?
  • Are we different when we lose our sight?
  • Can a visually impaired person be creative?

Needless to say, answers were different for everybody. After that, we had to create and build a project using cartboard. Our group decided to build a route full of traps (handrails leading to dead ends, sounds leading to corners…), so as to show that blind-related aids conceived by sighted people are not always good, because they have no idea what it means to be partially sighted or blind.

On Thursday we finished to build our project and then we got to test the ones built by the other groups. We then had a last meal together. I went back to Belgium with the same people I had come with.

To summarize, it was a very interesting meeting for me. However, I found it a pity that they completely abandoned the subject of fashion, to focus only on the daily experience of being blind.