Designer Ina Weber collaborates with Special Olympics

Die Designerin Ina Weber präsentiert ihren upgecycelten Rucksack.
The designer Ina Weber designed an upcycled backpack for Special Olympics.

Special Olympics has set itself the goal of strengthening the participation of people with disabilities - not only in sports, but also in other areas of life. That is why we supported the "Lette Design Award by Schindler" this year. The winner in the field of fashion and costume design would be given the opportunity to design and realize a product together with people with disabilities. The designer Ina Weber won the prize for the best final project of the fashion design training at the “Lette Verein Berlin” association. We are very happy that Ina designed a very special bag for Special Olympics: an upcycled backpack. Together with Lichtenberger Werkstätten (LWB), she produced a backpack from the materials of the 2022 National Games. Here you can learn more about the winner, Ina, her experience as a designer and the story of how the backpack came to be.

Ina, congratulations on completing your vocational training in fashion design and your extraordinary achievement in your final project. Would you like to tell us briefly what your final project is about?
For my final project "QUINGS" I worked with 6 non-binary persons who do not identify as either male or female. Together with them, we designed 6 individual outfits for them that express their personality and also made a film on the topic. It's important to me that people can sympathize with other (gender) identities. In the process, I myself learned an insane amount and had some wonderful experiences.

Why did you decide to do the upcycling project together with Lichtenberger Werkstätten?

I thought it was a great idea to make something with people with disabilities for people with disabilities. I also liked the opportunity to stay true to my value of sustainability and to give new life to old Special Olympics tarpaulins with the backpack. Since the Lichtenberger Werkstätten already produce other upcycled bags for Special Olympics, I was happy to join forces with them.

Do you have any experience in upcycling?

Sustainability has been an important factor since the beginning of my fashion career, even during my vocational training. I have already created two collections from upcycled materials. One was an imaginative costume, the other my final collection. Of course, I also use a lot of old textiles in my private life, I mainly buy second hand and I also like to sew things from old tablecloths or curtains.

Why upcycling? What fascinates you about it?

What fascinates me about it is that these garments have a story that becomes part of the new piece. We can give old materials a new life and make them useful again. My environmental conscience is always much better with it! Plus, it's super fun to scour thrift stores and material collections and find cool stuff.

How did you go about designing it? How long did this design process take and why did you finally choose the design?

First, we considered what kind of product would complement the existing range together and quickly came up with a backpack. I personally found this exciting, as I have never designed a backpack before and think there are many things to consider in order to keep it usable and practical. Then we sat down with the workshop leaders, I looked at the materials, decided on the tarpaulin and the mesh fabric and was able to pick up these materials directly in my designs. In the time that followed, I created the first sketches and later a first elaborated design. We then discussed the design and I created a cut and first rough prototype. Finally, we measured and wrote down all the exact measurements, sewed a complete first backpack and checked whether everything fits as planned.

The designer Ina Weber and Sarah Bruckmann from LWB present the upcycled backpack.

A collaborative effort: The designer Ina Weber and Sarah Bruckmann from LWB present the upcycled backpack.

Are there differences in design or things to consider in design when working with recycled materials?

Recycled materials are often not perfect, they are used, that's part of their charm! Of course, sometimes the old material does not have the desired width or length. In that case, you have to get creative and adapt cut and material to each other. That's what I find exciting about it and it usually even helps me in my design process, because some decisions have simply been made for me and I don’t have to start from scratch.
For the backpacks, for example, all the tarpaulin pieces are different, making every backpack look unique. Sometimes there is a lot of writing, sometimes little, sometimes there is green, sometimes only purple. So everyone’s backpack is unique - I find that beautiful! Each backpack is as unique as its wearer 😊.

Our mission is to help people with disabilities to self-determined societal participation. Does your backpack design fulfill special functionalities for people with disabilities?

We considered this aspect from the get-go and also wanted it to be made by people with disabilities. That's why I kept the design simple. This ensures that it is both easy to assemble in several small steps and easy to use. For example, we chose a Velcro closure and the opening is simply rolled up to close the backpack. The compartments on the front have a bottle-holder made from fence fabric and rubber, so you can just put bottles in there, for example. Our motto was: less is more!

Now you have your certificate as fashion designer in the bag. Do you already have plans or goals for the future?

For now, I'll be traveling through South America for half a year. In the long term, I would like to work on multimedia projects with other creative people. Fashion will be just one of many media. I would like to learn more in the area of my final project and work on cultural projects. That's why I want to enroll in cultural and gender studies after my trip. At the same time, I will still pursue different projects in fashion and costume design. But who knows what ideas South America will put in my head :).

And last but not least: What's your favorite product from the Special Olympics Shop?

The upcycled backpack of course ;). But other than that I love the upcycled pencil cases or the flipbooks, they are really beautifully illustrated!

An employee of LWB sews the handle to the backpack.

An employee of LWB sews the handle to the backpack. Foto: LWB.

Thank you Ina for your special backpack design. We hope you have a great time in South America and all the best on your way as a designer!

If you would like to know more about Ina, you can visit her website here.

Here you can find the #UnbeatableTogether collection.