Fashion collection inspired by Alzheimer's Disease

For fashion designer Nadia Pinkney, red is the colour to remember.

Designer Nadia Pinkney (centre) with models of the Remember me Knot collection. PIC contributed.

It is the signature hue in her collection inspired by Alzheimer’s Disease and the struggle faced by its sufferers, including two women in her own family.

For Ms Pinkney, red draws memories of the signature red raincoat worn by her great grandmother Bridget, who died from the disease two years ago.

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It is also a powerful symbol of the person living within the devastating illness, red being the colour that shows up on a brain scan to indicate the part where the disease has not yet reached.

A piece from Nadia Pinkney's collection that was inspired by her family's struggle with Alzheimer's. PIC contributed.

“The red shows life, that the person is still in there and that the disease doesn’t have them all,” Ms Pinkney, 21, said.

The designer, a recent fashion womenswear graduate of Heriot-Watt University, has been selected to show her collection- Remember be Knot- as part of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on June 24.

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Ms Pinkney used Alzheimer’s to inspire her collection with a hope to increase her own understanding of the disease, predicted to affect 131 million people worldwide by 2050, given the impact it had on her own family. Her grandmother, Dinah, also suffered from dementia.

A piece from Nadia Pinkney's collection that was inspired by her family's struggle with Alzheimer's. PIC contributed.

“I have been brought up with Alzheimer’s in the family but never really understood what it was. It was that lack of understanding that led me to look at what happens to the brain when Alzheimer’s takes over,” she said.

The designer worked with Dr Tom Russ of the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre at Edinburgh University to gain insight into the condition.

“I was able to use a very scientific basis for the design, that Alzheimer’s comes into the brain and basically ties neurons in knots,” she added.

Brain scans of Alzheimer’s patients have been used to create a print for some of the garments and a transparent fabric - knotted and matted together to reflect the affected neurons - helps to illustrate the vulnerability of patients.

Ms Pinkney added: “A lot of people with Alzheimer’s say they feel vulnerable and exposed in social situations. They don’t know who they are or why they are there. It’s quite a fragile fabric that I have used to represent this.”

The collections’ palette has also been kept to a minimum, partly to reflect the work of art therapy in caring for patients.

“I was told that patients only choose one or two colours to work with, and stick to those colours,” Ms Pinkney added.

And while the collection is defined with very modern silhouettes, Ms Pinkney said it does draw on the shapes and cuts from the 1940s and 1950s which were favoured by her grandmothers.

The designer said she was proud of her collection and its meaning.

“It is nice to see something good come from such a horrible experience. A lot of people say Alzheimer’s is a long goodbye but I wanted to turn a sad thing into something positive.”

Dr Russ described the Remember Me Knot collection as a “hugely creative response” to the human experience of Dementia.,

He added: Nadia has created a beautiful collection and I particularly like the dual significance of the colour red reflecting Nadia’s great-grandmother’s personality and representing glucose metabolism in active areas of the brain seen in PET scans.”

Ms Pinkey is now working on a collection of scarves from which she will donate half the profits to Alzheimer Scotland.