Between 35 and 70 million people worldwide suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a disease that causes joints to become inflamed. The inflammation happens because of a ‘malfunction’ of the body’s immune system, which then starts attacking healthy joints. When joints get inflamed they become stiff and, over time, become damaged. This leaves people with RA in agonising pain and unable to use their hands or to walk.
RA is a disease that affects every part of a patient’s daily life, making simple tasks nearly impossible to complete without help. A typical day is challenging from the very beginning for people with RA, as even getting dressed can be difficult because of the lack of strength and mobility in their hands and fingers.
In Belgrade, Serbia, young designers were called to rise to the occasion and put their creative skills to the test to help people with RA. In collaboration with local partners, Roche Serbia supported their mission to design a new clothing collection specifically aimed at overcoming issues that people with RA face when getting dressed. Buttons, zippers and laces were absent by design, providing people with RA with more independence in wearing fashionable clothes without compromises. Instead, the clothing items used velcro straps and snap buttons, which are easier to close and open.
On World Arthritis Day in 2012, people suffering from RA showed off the new designs on the catwalk of the “Shirts without buttons and pants without zippers – Move to improve 2012” (“Pokreni se biće bolje”) fashion show in the Kombank arena in Belgrade. The catwalk event invited the public to learn about the burden of RA and helped address the lack of understanding around how the disease impacts sufferers in everyday situations.
The event also aimed to educate people with RA and provided information on treatment possibilities, therapy guidelines and the importance of moving or exercising. While it is important for people with RA to rest, it is important to keep a good balance of light activities in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and preserve the mobility of their joints.
The event was not only a hot topic in the media. It also received over one million votes for “Best Fashion Show” on the local newspaper website “Blic”. With the public exposure of the challenges of RA, a new appreciation of this difficult disease was established.