Julia van Zanten

Interview with Julia van Zanten about Protective Underwear

Julia van Zanten

Social & Green Design Guide with: Julia van Zanten – Protective Underwear – DDW 2014

Video by Robert Andriessen
Text by Jeanne Tan
Produced in partnership with DOEN Foundation

Imagine losing control of your bladder while you’re out for dinner in a restaurant or sitting on the bus. For people who suffer incontinence, the fear of not being able to make it to the toilet in time and the consequent embarrassment often prevents them from leaving their home or engaging in social situations. Triggered by this condition that affected her grandfather, Julia van Zanten felt a responsibility to examine this issue and challenge the stigma of incontinence. “Practical solutions exist in the form of adult diapers, but these do nothing to address the emotional side of this common problem,” Julia explains. Her collection of washable textile underwear, accompanied by washing elements and an awareness campaign, aims to re-instil a sense of dignity and normality to women who suffer mild incontinence.

The collection comprises two sets of high-absorbent underwear made of silk and wool (outer) paired with absorbent yarn and microfiber (inner). One garment has an inner pocket to fit a removable textile pad, and the other is a protective underlayer that also fits a disposable pad. Beautifully detailed to resemble regular women’s underwear, the garments look luxurious yet personal. Two collecting aids – an aluminium vessel for home and a waterproof travel bag – encourage washing rather than disposal. The project aims to change the perception of incontinenceundergarments by repositioning them in a normal daily context, both for the user to wash and wear as a regular garment, and in retail where it shouldn’t be categorised as a medical aid. The vessel will soon be available for sale online and prototype garments are currently being tested for manufacturing. Julia: “In the end it is not about the end product but the experience and conversation around its cycle of use leading to a change in perspective. Through this project I aim to provoke others to consider moments on the margins that could do with the same attention as our emphasis on designing chairs and lamps.”


Protective Underwear is exhibited at the Graduation Show at the Design Academy Eindhoven
Emmasingel 14, 5611 AZ Eindhoven

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