In some ways, our journey with Yuan Ping mirrored that with our other customisation clients. Her friend, wishing to sponsor a pair of pants, had referred her to us. He knew that she had always wanted to wear a pair of denim pants but could never fit into a regular pair. As per our usual practice with customisation requests, we first did a consultation with Yuan Ping to learn her needs and followed with fitting sessions with the finished product or prototype.
What makes our experience with each client unique though, is the little moments in between which remind us why the human touch is an indispensable part of our design process.
Discovering a Need
Yuan Ping uses a wheelchair to travel around independently with her bag hung at the back of her wheelchair. During the fitting session for the customised pants, we noticed that Yuan Ping had trouble accessing her bag. The constant need to twist and turn her upper body to reach her bag added to the physical stress she was already experiencing from having to wheel herself around. Not only is this tiring, the movement and exertion also risks a back injury or a pulled muscle.
Did we mention that her bag was also torn?
We couldn’t stand by and do nothing. With Yuan Ping’s consent, we decided to design a functional bag for her and match her need to a Well Wisher under our #BeTheDifference initiative.
Room for Empathy
When Yuan Ping came by our studio for the third time to test the bag prototype, we began by asking her a casual question, “Did you have breakfast?” She replied, “No.”
It took repeated rejections to our offers to grab a bite at the nearby canteen before Yuan Ping finally, and bravely, explained what she really meant by “no”. She barely earned enough to sustain herself, let alone afford breakfast.
We were taken aback. How much had we taken breakfast for granted that we couldn’t see another’s struggle right in front of us? Thankfully, we had an extra bun on hand which Yuan Ping accepted and wolfed down. Everyone deserves dignity, and a little empathy can go a long way.
One is Not Enough
Further into the same consultation session, we required Yuan Ping to transfer out from her wheelchair. Imagine our shock when her pants suddenly fell during the transfer process! This had occurred in a public space and no one deserved to go through that experience due to a lack of functional pants.
Apparently, the pair of pants we had previously customised for Yuan Ping was in the laundry, so she had to wear her old pair. Realising that this was a real and pressing problem, we made the decision together with Yuan Ping that making her another pair of pants would be our priority.
The back of the hip area is designed to be higher to accommodate Yuan Ping's seated posture.
At this point, Kang Wei’s contribution was timely. If you had read our previous blog post, you would know that he was a nominee turned Well Wisher for our #BeTheDifference initiative. His generosity helped to extend our impact and made Yuan Ping’s pants a quick reality!
Yuan Ping had always wanted to wear denim pants, but off-the-rack pairs often didn’t fit her well. Denim's elasticity meant that it would be able to fit Yuan Ping through different seasons of her life and thus, became our go-to material for her customised pants.
The pockets on the pants are placed at the sides of her lower leg for easier access when Yuan Ping is seated on her wheelchair.
The adjustable elastic waistband enables Yuan Ping to adjust the fit of the pants whenever she needs to.
Care Makes a Difference
While asking Yuan Ping about her dressing needs, we noticed that her eyes started to tear up. It seemed that rarely had someone taken time to truly understand her needs, which reminded us again the importance of our design process. Maybe it’s not so much about the final solution, but the care and attention we give to our clients that could make a lasting difference in their lives.
Our experiences with Yuan Ping and Kang Wei have strengthened our belief in the value of our #BeTheDifference initiative. We hope you, too, can see the impact that you could make as a nominator or Well Wisher.
We’re still seeking for another Well Wisher to help Yuan Ping receive a bag she can use comfortably on her wheelchair. This would greatly ease the physical stress on her body as she goes about her daily activities.