A Chat About Inclusion with Estee Lauder’s Donald Robertson

Posted on May 5, 2014

I just got off the phone with Donald Robertson, or as he’s better known these days DonaldDrawbertson. His drawings have amassed a whopping 34,000 Instagram followers. I’m one of them. I look forward to his doodles. They’re perfectly distracting.

Chanel Wheelchair I wrote him this morning after discovering two Chanel branded wheelchair sketches on his Instagram page. This is what I said in my email: I’d love to know what made you think of sketching a designer wheelchair and what it represents to you. It would mean a lot to hear back, I rarely see representations of disability in fashion – especially ones that are so creative and it really made my day. He quickly wrote back and said “Fun! Let’s talk” and talk we did.  So where did the Chanel wheelchair idea come from? It was a few different things actually. The first inspiration was a shopping cart that Chanel had recently branded. He wanted to sketch an off-the-wall Chanel item that doesn’t exist… yet. 

Chanel Shopping Cart At this same time, he had been giving thought to how Karl Lagerfeld would navigate the stairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the annual Met ball. 

Karl Lagerfeld DonaldDrawbertson Wheelchair The wheelchair came to mind because as Creative Director for Special Products at Estee Lauder, wheelchairs are frequently on his mind. He told me that nobody realizes the amount of thought that goes into making their counters wheelchair accessible.  This surprised me. I assumed wheelchair accessibility was an afterthought. But it’s not, it’s actually one of the foundations upon which their counters are designed. It’s something he thinks about every day. 

Estee Lauder counter My reaction to this was two-fold. First, it’s impressive knowing how much thought is put into creating an inclusive shopping experience for every Estee Lauder customer. It also made me wish that these efforts were publicly lauded and bragged upon. Wheelchair accessibility improves the shopping experience for all customers. Everyone benefits from wider walkways and flowing corners.  Donald told me Macy’s has one of the most state of the art wheelchair layouts he’s seen. While I assumed he was talking about Macy’s at 34th Street in NYC, I failed to ask for clarification. I was too busy fantasizing about borrowing a wheelchair and testing the aisles out for myself.  It’s really nice knowing someone who is so integrated in the world of beauty works this hard to create inclusion. I’d love to learn the ways other brands work to create inclusion for all.  So, thank you Donald. Our conversation made me smile. Just like your sketches. Perhaps my cane sketches might make you smile too. 

Purple Cane Sketches

He even seemed charmed by my J. Crew project for inclusion. Perhaps you might too. A signature for me is a signature for all. 

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