Total  Energies

Free membership

Receive our weekly Newsletter
and set tailored daily news alerts.


German design studio launches first collection of optimised clothing for wheelchair basketball players

The product development was based on the extensive data generated by the Hohenstein Institute in Boennigheim.

4th September 2015

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Boennigheim

Sports/​Outdoor, Clothing/​Footwear

Within just 12 years, the number of members in the German Disabled Sports Association has nearly doubled – and numbers are still rising.

In response to this development, Sabine Hattenkerl and Katrin Eiermann, from the Leipzig sports fashion design studio eiermann+hattenkerl, in partnership with Biehler Sportswear have developed the first-ever optimised prototype collection for the first team of the Elxleben wheelchair basketball club RSB Thuringia Bulls.

The product development was based on the extensive data generated by the Hohenstein Institute in Boennigheim as part of a research project on optimising sportswear for wheelchair users.


As a result of the project called Smart-Fit-In, which began in 2014, and was aimed at developing specially adapted and personalised products for people with restricted mobility, the two designers became aware of the innovation forum Adapted Fashion.

"Thanks to the Smart-Fit-In /Adapted Fashion project, we learnt about lots of new requirements that people with disabilities have. We were astonished to find this was an area where so much was still lacking – technically and from the point of view of design – so we were motivated to get involved," explained Sabine Hattenkerl.

Demand for functional clothing

Through the innovation forum, they also came into contact with Lutz Leßmann, the manager of the wheelchair basketball team RSB Thuringia Bulls. Even though the players in his team are professionals and train every day, they are not kitted out by the leading sportswear manufacturers but have to fend for themselves when it comes to sportswear.

The players are enthusiastic about the comfort and fit of the optimised sportswear. ©Armin Diekmann

So they go to team outfitters to have shirts and trousers printed or embroidered with their sponsors' logos. Because the print is applied later, it has the effect of a sticker and reduces the breathability of the clothing.

Technically, the fit of this clothing is not designed to meet the special needs of wheelchair users when playing basketball, because their seated position makes particular demands on the cut of such sportswear.

Research project findings

As part of research project, the scientists at the Hohenstein Institute measured wheelchair users digitally in a stationary 3D body scanner and, using a portable hand scanner, in their sports wheelchair.

They made a lot of new findings: non-optimised trousers are generally too short at the back, round the waist, for wheelchair basketball players, and too long at the front. Furthermore, most wheelchair athletes have very muscular upper bodies and arms and this must be taken into account when designing shirts and jackets.

The two designers Sabine Hattenkerl and Katrin Eiermann worked with Biehler Sportswear to develop the first ever optimised prototype collection for the wheelchair basketball team RSB Thuringia Bulls. © Armin Diekmann

To ensure a good fit, offering a great deal of freedom of movement, the garments have to have specially adapted seam lines, the Institute suggested. The close contact of the back and buttocks with the wheelchair can soon lead to a build-up of sweat which must be avoided by using suitable materials and functional designs. From this mass of data, the Hohenstein experts were able to derive practical ways of optimising clothing for wheelchair athletes. These research results served as the basis for the current prototype collection.

Latest Reports

Business intelligence for the fibre, textiles and apparel industries: technologies, innovations, markets, investments, trade policy, sourcing, strategy...

Find out more