HEAR HEAR: After being postponed earlier this year due to the sanitary crisis, the awards ceremony for the first edition of the Inclusive Design Awards, an international competition created to highlight solutions in the field of inclusive design, took place on Oct. 1 at Collectif Coulanges, a listed historic building that is being renovated to become a hub of fashion, creation and design.

France’s first lady Brigitte Macron, originally scheduled to hand out the award but unable to attend due to last-minute schedule changes, sent her congratulations to the winners by text message.

Flora Fixy and Julia Dessirier, of creative studio FandD, scooped up the top gong with Hearring, a project aiming to transform the perception of hearing aids from a medical device to an item that could be just as fashionable as, say, glasses.

“To be truly inclusive means that you are no longer making distinctions [between people living with disabilities and those who are not],” said Fixy in a phone call earlier in the day. In her opinion, creating elegant solutions to address functional needs was a step further towards human augmentation through technology, breaking down the reticence caused by less-than-aesthetic designs.

“Last year, we spoke with a company producing auditory equipment, and one of their engineers told us that we’d all soon be wearing these pieces of equipment, not because of a disability but because they are becoming an integral part of our ultra-connected lifestyles,” she noted.

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This new design award was imagined by Isabelle Lefort, co-founder of Paris Good Fashion, an association working towards making Paris the capital of sustainable fashion by 2024, along with Floriane de Saint Pierre, founder of Eyes on Talents, a platform dedicated to connecting talent with companies, and of the eponymous consulting firm specializing in organizational design and executive search.

The inaugural jury included key members of Paris Good Fashion, Eyes on Talent and the non-governmental organization APF France handicap, as well as Pascal Morand, executive president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, and Nathalie Franson–Pavlovsky, founder of the NFP Fashion & Luxury Advisor consulting firm.

Also in the running were New York-based British designer Lucy Jones and her brand Ffora, a collection of clips can be adapted on mobility solutions; Equadorian Camila Chiriboga, whose project ve° helps visually impaired people distinguish colors through tactile transliterations; and Swedish fashion designer Louise Linderoth, who wants to give access to fashion to wheelchair users.

The award was preceded by a roundtable on fashion and inclusive design, and the role of inclusion as a driver for creation.

“I think inclusive design goes well beyond accessibility and touches the very meaning of objects,” Marie-Ange Brayer, head of the design and industrial forecasting of the Centre Pompidou, said in a pre-recorded video. “Inclusive design is a key challenge today because it carries essential values such as attention to others, empathy, goodwill — aspirations within which innovation lives today.”

She cited the wellness elements that Finnish architect Alvar Aalto integrated into the design of furniture for a sanatorium, or how working on a military leg splint led Charles and Ray Eames to imagine their now-cult modernist chairs. Brayer also cited e-Nable, a digital community using personal 3D printers to make free or low-cost prosthetics for adults and children in need.

In addition to a 10,000 euros endowment, the winners will also benefit from mentoring from the teams of Paris Good Fashion and Eyes On Talent.

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