"Many patients with oedema also see compression garments as a fashion accessory".
Interview with Prof. Martina Glomb, who teaches fashion design at Hanover University and trains the next generation of young designers.
During the interview, she explains why the fashion aspect of compression treatment is so important and how our love of clothing can help us weather challenging phases in life.
Professor Glomb, why did you decide to follow a career in the fashion industry?
"I grew up in a "fashion-conscious" household. My father was a tailor and he also developed tents and equipment for Arctic expeditions. My mother was a draughtswoman; she drew plans for everything from architecture to engines. My earliest childhood memories are filled with fashion: when I think back, I can see myself sitting on a large cutting table holding a horsehair cushion and practicing my very first sewing stitches.
These are wonderful memories and, in this environment, I got to know so many interesting people from the fashion world, I discovered materials and textiles and I absorbed the special atmosphere of the seamstress workshops".
What advice do you give your fashion students?
"The two most important aspects of fashion design are passion and love of people and materials. Besides drawing talent, you must be able to think up fun and quirky ideas quickly, you must be creative and have a keen interest in the day-to-day work with textiles and fashion, but particularly in the people who wear your clothes.
I think that a good fashion designer finds inspiration everywhere – in fact, in many cases, you are more likely to find it on a building site than in a trendy boutique. You can learn all the rest: the aesthetic and theoretical research, how to draw, dress-making and sewing".
You have overcome breast cancer and you wore a compressive sleeve. How did you find the sleeve?
"I lost my hair and my eyelashes and I always showed this openly. If anybody broached the subject, I said "I had breast cancer", as if it was all over. But the sleeves of that time simply did not match my positive attitude. So I turned many of the things that made me look ill into something that I found beautiful.
That's why I started decorating my sleeve with embroidery, but the result left much to be desired. The products simply lacked the acceptance for and compatibility with normal everyday life. As patients, we accept the fact that we have to wear a medical device, but even I as a designer found it difficult to integrate the sleeve fashionably in my everyday life. But this aspect is so incredibly important: you want to cast your illness aside instead of thinking about the treatment all the time. A compression sleeve should express joy, courage and pride, not look like a medical device – even if it is of course necessary and fulfils an important function".
What patterns and colours would you have wanted for your sleeve?
"I would have loved wild patterns, tattoo shapes and vibrant colours. For my taste, the skin colour looked too much like an illness and did not suit my optimistic view of the future.
I kept on working and teaching, even during my chemotherapy, these activities gave me energy and a great deal of pleasure. When I stood up without any hair in front of my students and told them what had happened to me, they broke out in spontaneous tumultuous applause and offered me so much encouragement and comfort. I would have been able to enjoy this moment with much more pride and far more confidently, if I had been wearing a cherry red sleeve or one with a cool pattern".
Do you believe that fashionable variety is important for compression therapy for patients with lip- and lymphoedema?
"Of course it is, particularly for younger patients. I'm sure that some people feel more comfortable, if their compression garment is inconspicuous, but during my course of rehabilitation, I met a lot of people, mostly young people, who deal very proactively with their disease and the treatment methods, i.e. with the necessary compression therapy as well.
They want colours; many patients want to see compression hosiery as a fashionable accessory, not as a medical device".
medi offers new two-tone fashion elements. How do you like the designs Crosses, Animal and Ornaments?
"It is important to allow for more colourfulness, patterns and zest in life. But, of course, as a designer, I would like to have an even wider selection, for example, creative ornaments or unusual tattoo shapes. The Crosses pattern is my favourite. The grey coloured stockings match a black dress, I'm sure you can imagine all sorts of colour compositions.
Compression fashion should be designed to be even more exciting. I know that this puts some women off. But I've also met many women, who would have liked to be more courageous with the help of a suitable fashionable medical device and who feel able to handle their disease with confidence".
And finally, what piece of advice on the topic of fashion and compression would you like to give oedema patients to take away with them?
"Of course, I can only speak from my own experience, but I was always full of the joys of life in every phase of my disease, even during the difficult times. The people around me, my job and my clothes gave me the strength I needed.
I have always dressed in brightly coloured clothes that matched my feelings. In my opinion, it's important to adjust your approach and risk something you've never tried before every now and then, particularly in times of uncertainty".
Professor Glomb, many thanks for the interview!
Prof. Martina Glomb
Martina Glomb spent the most formative years of her career in London – as chief designer for the fashion legend Vivienne Westwood. But in 2005, she felt drawn home to her native city of Bremen and returned to Northern Germany. Since then she has been teaching fashion design at Hanover University, where she trains the next generation of young designers.
After her breast cancer in 2011, she started wearing a compressive sleeve to prevent lymphoedema. Martina Glomb overcame her cancer, not least thanks to her passion for her work.
Compression garments from medi
Click here for more information about mediven 550 Leg* compression stockings and pantyhose from medi.
* Flat-knitted medical compression stocking used for compression of the lower extremities, mainly for the treatment of disorders of the lymphatic system.
Health personnel will make the diagnosis and can prescribe compression stockings, e.g. from medi if necessary.
Your medical retailer will fit them individually for you.