LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Spending long stretches of time in the hospital can be emotionally draining. There's the loss of basic comforts, the sterile environment, fluorescent lights and indignities, like those open-backed disposable gowns. To try and address this, Nikla Lancksweert developed a line of more stylish clothing for hospital patients. She told us the inspiration was very personal.
NIKLA LANCKSWEERT: My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was just 52 years old and suddenly plunged into the world of hospitals and medical treatment. And it was really notable to see how very quickly she lost her dignity. And it's not intentionally so. It's just if you're wearing the wrong clothes, and you have to be helped to dress and undress, then you might not want to go for a walk, which means you end up staying in your room. And you become sort of institutionalized incredibly quickly.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you went from thinking, I wish there were better clothing options for my mom to, I'm going to make better clothing options for my mom and people like her. How did that actually happen to start a clothing line?
LANCKSWEERT: I was lucky enough to meet Claire Robinson, whose own mother had breast cancer and who was experiencing much of the same issues that my mother had gone through. And then we realized that we needed to have somebody with real fashion design skills and not just determination. And so we were lucky enough to meet Fiona McGreal who wanted to help us come up with a set of designs that really work in hospital but that look completely normal. And that, for us, was the key thing - is that we wanted to de-stigmatize ill health.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you have to design clothing for patients, what has to be taken into consideration?
LANCKSWEERT: We worked with nurses to say OK, which parts of the body do you need to be able to get to? And so we came up with - for women, we have a back-opening dress, which is actually the closest thing to a hospital gown. But you would never guess it. I've worn it in the playground. I've worn it to the supermarket. But it has all that ease of opening in that it opens at the back. And it also has openings down the arms and a very discreet opening to the stomach.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why is it important to have patients feeling better about the way that they look?
LANCKSWEERT: Well, if you feel self-confident - and therefore in charge of your medical treatment - then you are much more likely to want to get up and move around and ultimately recover faster. But there's also a very physical aspect of it, which is if you don't do those things, if you just stay in bed, there's actually a higher risk of infection. And you lose your muscle tone, which makes walking ultimately harder. So your hospital stay becomes longer.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You called the company after your mother.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you think she'd think of what you've done?
LANCKSWEERT: I think she would be amazed. (Laughter) I have had nothing to do with the fashion world, and I don't think I'm known particularly for being fashionable. But in fact, Inga was my mother's name. But it's only afterwards that I realized looking it up that it actually means a hero's daughter. And that's very much how we feel - that this concept is in honor of the heroes in our life. And I hope it brings a great deal of comfort and dignity to others and just break this vicious cycle that patients often find themselves in.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Nikla Lancksweert is the co-founder of the clothing company INGA Wellbeing. Thank you so much for being with us.
LANCKSWEERT: Thank you.
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