Oct 132014
 

By: Thomas Hall

A better-performing you? “It’s as easy as putting on a shirt!”

The female and male variants of Hexoskin, shown with compatible Android and iOS devices. (Linked to Hexoskin.com)

The Hexoskin, a plain, black shirt, is actually a lightweight, all-encompassing fitness tracker for extreme athletics and everyday activities alike. Hexoskin has been in development since 2006, when a Montreal design duo came up with the idea to streamline the existing method of invasive and uncomfortable physical trackers. Their design was so tantalizing to aerospace use that the Canadian Space Agency has been working closely to fund and test the product since its conception. They plan to send the shirts to the International Space Station in coming years for use by astronauts.

How forward-thinking is Hexoskin? A Bluetooth transmitter slipped into a pocket of the shirt connects to your device of choice, and beams information such as heart rate, lung capacity, oxygen levels, and sleep patterns, all in real time. The most high-profile uses thus far have been by the 2014 Spartan Race World Champion, the Canadian Olympic skiing team, and by polar researchers for the Canadian Space Agency. Those with conditions such as cardiac defects can wear the shirt to monitor their activity for any dangerous deviations. The only option previously was to wear sticky sensors beleaguered with wires until enough data was recovered.

Possibly the  biggest boon to Hexoskin is that it is an Open Data device, meaning that any developer, or user, can pull the sensors’ readings into whatever platform they wish. This philosophy of openness has really taken off in recent tech products, from Fitbit, to Android Wear, to Apple’s Health app and smart watch. The Hexoskin technology has already been licensed to clothing manufacturers, in the hopes that popular name brands can bring down the hefty $399 price tag, as well as create buzz in pop culture.

The team claims that products like Hexoskin are key to “preventative medicine,” much like the dozens of sensors in your car are key to preventative maintenance. If wearable technology and the Quantified Self movement seemed like a fad in recent years, then that stigma is quickly dissipating. According to Nielsen, 15% of the population is trying on wearable technology, and over half of those early adoptions are fitness bands. So what is stopping a majority of the population from grabbing the best, or cheapest, or most colorful fitness tracker from the nearest shelf? The answer seems to be that the intersection of technology and fashion simply isn’t where it needs to be for wide adoption. Designers can only be free to make something truly usable and artistic when “not directed by marketing demands or production methods,” and the smallness, lightness, and excellent battery life of today’s cutting edge tech is only just beginning to become usable by fashion designers (Bradley Quinn, Cybercouture). With its minimalist design, loaded feature set, and lack of visual cues that scream “nerd,” Hexoskin is a chance for technology and quantified health to break into the most worn of all wearables: clothing.

 

Sources:

http://goo.gl/MJvkdl (Nielsen)

http://goo.gl/iQujaT (Forbes)

http://goo.gl/EEUTSB (Hexoskin)

http://goo.gl/BXxcpU (Quinn)

Mar 182014
 
Clothing by Suzanne Lee - made from Kombucha SCOBYs and natural plant dye

“Bio Couture” by Suzanne Lee – sustainable clothing made from the combination of bacteria, yeast, sugar, and tea

London-based fashion designer Suzanne Lee is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Fashion & Textiles at the at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She is also the founder and creative director of Bio-Couture, where her work centers around the production and manipulation of sustainable biomaterial textiles. Suzanne is exploring ways to grow cellulose material using a common fermentation method that combines a simple sweet tea solution with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast to brew kombucha. This symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (“SCOBY“) naturally produces microbial cellulose.

What’s so great about cellulose? It is Earth’s most common organic material and serves as the basis of many plant-based fibers used for textiles like linen, cotton, and hemp. Cotton itself is comprised of almost 95% cellulose. However, cotton is becoming increasingly more expensive to produce and has a significant negative impact on the environment. According to the IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, about 10% of all agricultural chemicals used worldwide are processed by the cotton sector. While there is growing demand for sustainable organic cotton, the market remains relatively small and the organization is still in the midst of an uphill battle making sustainable organic cotton a mainstream standard. Continue reading »

Mar 132014
 

One of my greatest desire is to combine my love of fashion and eco consciousness to help provide awareness and even solutions to maintain our planet. One of my obstacles, I have experienced and witnessed are the price tags on some of the wonderful “green” products that are in the market, today.

What I have observed in fashion is that due to use of the technology included to provide such an eco-friendly product, it has an effect on its cost. Many would spend $150.00 and up on a certain brand of Jeans or purse, but for me, in this particular season of my life,  that would be impractical.  I mean I am on the level to where my purchasing decisions have to do with purchasing between a package of paper plates from a dollar store or the cheapest biodegradable paper plates I have found, which are $2.50 by the way.

Because I know a little about  of what it entails to manufacture a RTW garment, I do have some reservations when it comes to purchasing some fashion items. I know that for a while “Green” has been the new Black in the fashion world.  With the immersion of fashion tech, I can see how eco-friendly may even become more for the chic.  I hope not.I anticipate to see green living accessible to anyone who  choses to live this particular lifestyle one day. So I try to live on my own convictions by reusing, recycling, and repurposing. I sometimes find myself buying sale and clearance items that aren’t previously used as well.  So enough of my soap box.

Here are some amazing and innovative products that are fashionably high tech green, that given the opportunity, I might even have to purchase a few to add to my “vintage” closet.

DVF solar purse

DVF solar purse

The lovely Diane Von Furstenberg and some her designer friends such  as Tommy Hilfiger join forces to create  purses with integrated solar powered panels for The Portable Light Project provide by Elle.  Her design generates clean renewable energy through a small solar panel on the side of the purse. The energy is stored in a small battery used to power a USB port for mobile devices and a light as well.

CO2 Dress

CO2 Dress

 

A dress by Diffus that can read high levels of CO2. The dress has LED sewn onto the fabric that creates flickering patterns when CO2 levels are high and low.

ph dress

Rain Palette Dress

 

 

Dahea Sun’s Rain Palette dress changes color to show ph levels in the rain. This helps indicate air quality. The dye on the dress is natural which reacts to the ph levels of rainwater.

raincatch

raincatch

 

Two students at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design created a raincoat that will also give you water to drink. Raincatch captures rainwater then through a series of chemical filters and charcoal the rainwater is converted into drinkable water.

 

Flutter dress

Flutter dress

 

 

The Flutter Dress created to help the hearing impaired.  The dress was Created by Halley Profita, Nicholas Farrow, and Professor Nikolaus Correll at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It gives  vibrations  in the direction of a loud sound within its external environment to help those with hearing loss.

 

I am not a Virgin

I am not a Virgin

Sexy jeans made from Beer bottles by I am Not a Virgin Founded by Peter Heron. At the moment their prototype consists of 25 percent bottle fiber and 75 percent cotton. They have used scraps from garment manufacturer companies to make their jeans and now have added the synthetic component of beer bottles.  The idea was inspired by the transformation bamboo into thread. The bottles are crushed into fine particulate, melted and then extruded into fiber. The company also has a line of T-shirts made from food trays, water bottles and other materials that are hard to breakdown in the environment. The company is still in its development. They are projecting to be on the market soon.

For many other innovations in Green tech fashionable garments click here.

CC:

  • DVF solar purse:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • CO2 Dress:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • Rain Palette Dress:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • Raincatch:http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2014/01/27/high-tech-high-fashion-13-futuristic-green-garments/
  • Flutter Dress:http://www.crunchwear.com/flutter-dress-brings-high-fashion-to-the-hearing-impaired/#jp-carousel-3085
  • I am not a virgin Jeans:http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/jeans-made-beer-bottles.html

 

 

 

May 072012
 

When you think of the world of fashion – what comes to mind?  Glamorous? Exciting?  Very possible those words are just a couple that are used to describe the fashion industry; but have you stopped to think about the impact to the environment?  I would bet money that the same words would not be in the vocabulary of what I am about to  illustrate about the textile industry and the environment.

There are four key environmental impacts associated with textiles

  • Water
  • Energy
  • Pollution
  • Use of non-renewable resources

From an environmental point of view, when thinking about the environmental hazards, the clothes we wear and the textiles they are made from can cause a large amount of harm.

Dyeing alone can account for most of the water used in producing a garment; but there is also a considerable amount of water and energy that are used in the processing of the various materials in the textile production chain.  The textile dyeing and finishing mills use large volumes of water and substantial quantities of complex chemicals and are high producers of carbon dioxide emissions as well as water pollutions.  Unfixed dye tends to wash out of garments, and can end up in the rivers and sewers, as treatment plants fail to remove them from the water.

Water is not only used in large quantities during the dyeing process but is also used in considerable quantities for irrigation during the growing of natural fibers, depending on the localized rainfall patterns

Now – there are several challenges that companies have but one of the biggest is staying competitive.  On one hand, companies are looking for business improvements to keep costs to the consumer low but also an efficient way to keep the environment safe by adopting clean technology which in turn will produce eco-friendly products.

These issues are rising and more and more people are becoming aware of the impact on our environment.  The impact is causing a ton of concern to the companies and to the consumers alike.

Earlier this year, Ecouterre headlined a story about Nike partnering with a new company that was trying a new technology:

 DyeCoo Textile Systems is a Netherlands-based company that built the first commercial waterless textile-dyeing machine. The H2O-free technology imbues a pressurized form of carbon dioxide with liquid-like properties, allowing it to penetrate textile fibers and disperse preloaded dyes without extra chemical agents. Once the dyeing cycle is complete, the CO2 is gasified to recover the excess dye before cycling back into the dyeing vessel for reuse—no muss, no fuss, and with far less energy than conventional methods.

Obviously, water is just one of the issues when it comes to textiles and the environment.  A few others to mention are things such as nylon taking approx 30-40 years to decompose or the use of harmful solvents in glues and chemicals that are released into the atmosphere affecting the quality of the air we breathe.

That leaves me with asking a powerful thought provoking question:  How can an industry that encourages rampant consumerism be environmentally sustainable?

Dec 152011
 

Technology and fashion are evoloving and intersecting in multiple fascinating and unexpected ways. From clothing that moves to garments that offer healing properties for the skin, techno fashion applications are literally turning the contemporary fashion aesthetic on it’s well dressed head.  Below I have compiled a few examples of recent developments in the techno fashion space. From the exceedingly cool to the just plain weird, the innovations detailed below explore designers and developements on the very cutting edge of the genre.

For every online shopper, a clothing size profile via webcam

As anyone who has ever been caught in phone menu purgatory, attempting to return wrongly sized or ill-fitting online purchases will tell you, the value of this technological innovation is significant indeed.

Take accurate individual measurements via webcam

UpCload, a company based in Berlin, has developed technology to enable online shoppers to accurately take their own body measurements for proper sizing assessments when shopping for clothes online. The only equipment required by the shopper are a webcam and a compact disk for calibration. The tool measures such characteristics and chest circumference and arm length and then adapts those measurements to correspond with online retailers clothing sizes. Even better, shoppers can create a profile to store their measurements and use them to shop at any participating online retailer “to ensure a consistent and reliable fit.” The service is currently in beta but has plans to roll out to stores worldwide and institute social networking capabilities whereby shoppers can compare purchases among their friends. Though there may be some hidden privacy concerns here, I believe this is an excellent marriage of fashion and technology with positive implications for the digital sartorial landscape. Also, no more phone menu purgatory!

Eco-friendly knitwear contains skin-healing properties

Skin healing knitwear from Twosquaremeter

Another German company doing exciting things in the techno fashion space is Innovation and Clothing Factory.  The company recently launched Twosquaremeter, an eco-chic line of knitwear featuring garments constructed from “specially developed biological yarns.” As first reported on springwise.com: “The yarns contain either seaweed fibers or milk protein fibers, both of which are thought to contain healing and nourishing properties for the skin. To produce the milk-based knitwear, natural milk is skimmed and drained before the extracted proteins are processed into fibers. Twosquaremeter claim that these fibers bind sweat and neutralize the smell, while also regulating body temperature.” Other healthful benefits of the line’s garments include clothing constructed from cotton seaweed that is purported to have skin-rejuvinating abilities. Here’s a short video showcasing the brand’s entire line.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7Q_Io5kT9E&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Garments that have the ability to literally heal the wearer really represent the truly limitless potential of the techno fashion genre. Manifestations of the cyborg, whereby clothing augments human capability, have often been met with consumer circumspection. I feel this brand does much to lead the conversation in a more positive direction. Especially, considering that in addition to the healing properties of the brand’s clothing, the label has also made a commitment to ethical business practices including sustainable and environmentally sound garment production. This is surely a label for other brands to watch…and emulate.

Ink-redible Dress Made Out of Vibrating Pen Nibs

 

Nussey and Tai's Pen Nib Dress

In an irreverent take on the concept communicative fashion designer John Nussey and design student Steven Tai have developed a dress constructed from vibrating pen nibs. Literally marrying analog and digital communcations technology, the dress is constructed of 42 rows of vibrating pen nibs with each row wired with a vibrating cell phone motor. Here’s a short video of the garment in action:

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/24923549[/vimeo]

The vibrating rows of nibs can be controlled, including being powered on and off, with an arduino. Hence the virating pen nib dress also possesses programming and sequencing capabilities. Of course the dress, like any good garment, is also mobile. Per Nussey in an interview for Wired UK: “The whole lot is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery, so it doesn’t have to be plugged in.” With wired vibrating nibs that remarkably resemble sequins Nussey and Tai have literally expanded on the communicative capabilities of fashion in a particularly unique and creative way. Perhaps the Pen Nib dress heralds the beginning of a techno sartorial communications revolution.

 

 Technology Inspired Fashion

The following dress turns Manovich’s media theory of transcoding on it’s head.  If trasncoding is the transformation of media into compter data, what do we call it when computer data is transformed into analog media? Behold the Angry Birds Dress.

Angry Birds Dress

Spotted on an attendee of a gala at the Finnish Presidential Palace, the Angry Birds Dress is media in its truest sense. Indeed it communicates something about the wearer (particularly that she has an offbeat sense of humor) and our contemporary media landscape. Allow me to channel Marshall McLuhan for a moment. I believe we are witnessng here  no less than an extension of man, or woman as it were, as the Angry Birds dress is an apt illustration of the extension of the digital into the realm of the physical. Hence contemporary fashionistas are in the midst of a redefining of the self  – a redefining that must make room for the digital.

These are but a few of the latest developments in the genre of techno fashion. As illustrated here the field is as broad as it is wide, and the implications for these innovations are significant indeed.  As fashion and technology evolve and intersect it will be interesting to witness what innovations will come next.

 

Oct 222011
 

Screenshot of the Home Page

There are so many interesting things on this website that I admit I start browsing and quickly feel overwhelmed. For the purposes of Fashioning Circuits, I find the “E-textiles” section very interesting.

I have never ordered from them, so I can’t speak to customer service. I’ll update this when I have a chance.

http://www.sparkfun.com/

Update: Lots of us at Fashioning Circuits have been getting our supplies from SparkFun with really positive results. They ship quickly and the stuff arrives in good shape.