Nexus-trained start-up Zyenika creates adaptive clothing options for people with mobility challenges.
Soumita Basu (left) launched Zyenika Inclusive Fashion along with her mother Amita (center) to provide bespoke and adaptive options to people with disabilities or health challenges. (Photographs courtesy Diganta Gogoi, Soumita Basu)
Soumita Basu is a problem solver. When she lost 80 percent of her mobility due to psoriatic arthritis, she noticed that there are often limited clothing choices for people facing long-term health and mobility challenges.
Basu decided to launch Zyenika Inclusive Fashion, along with her mother, Amita, to provide bespoke and adaptive options to people with disabilities or health challenges. Basu was part of the 13th cohort at the U.S. Embassy New Delhi’s Nexus Start-Up Hub. Prior to launching Zyenika, she worked for nearly 18 years as an international development practitioner and journalist.
“I had acquired a disability in my early 30s, making it impossible to dress up painlessly, even with help. So, I started looking for different kinds of clothes designed for my body. There were none. That was what got me started—to fill this gap,” says Basu.
Zyenika’s product line includes, for example, trousers for men and women with easy fasteners and handy loops that look great and are comfortable, whether standing or seated in a wheelchair. “Our products are designed and adapted to the body and its specific needs, making dressing up painless and quick,” says Basu. “They are designed to fit you instead of the other way around.” Zyenika’s outfits are available online, with shipping across India.
“We are focused on various types of casual and formal clothing for people with chronic illnesses, disabilities and the elderly,” Basu explains, adding that “it’s also for those who are temporarily in need of special care—like dealing with cancer treatment, post-surgery, post-fracture and so on.”
She says the response from customers has been enthusiastic. “They have commented that it’s good to see a brand thinking about the often-invisible status of persons facing disability or health challenges.” Far too often, considerations of functionality and the desire to look good, are not factored into the clothing options available to this population.
Sharing an anecdote, Basu says, “One 26-year-old wrote to us, saying that after wearing our clothes she feels stylish. And she doesn’t have to worry about how she will use the restroom when outside of her home. This has given her the space to eat and drink freely. This was possible by using our easy-access clothes for wheelchair users.”
Basu says she found the Nexus training program very helpful. “The networking and support helped to make everything possible” for her start-up venture, she says.
Challenges, of course, remain. “There is a huge stigma that prevents people from actively engaging and taking opportunities…there are millions suffering from physical issues in India alone,” Basu explains. “But their quality of life can be enhanced hugely.” Thanks to Zyenika’s work, and the tireless work of the mother-daughter team, that enhancement is well under way.
Trevor Laurence Jockims teaches writing, literature and contemporary culture at New York University.
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