May 122012

Figure 1. The Superman “S” Logo. Image credit:

The concept of the cyborg or techno-fashion is not a new one to Fashioning Circuits. Fashion that has the ability to extend the capabilities of the human body is a topic that I, for one, find particularly fascinating. It may surprise the FC reader, howeve,r to learn that there also exists another perhaps lower tech but no less integral component to techno-fashion, that is fashion that can compensate for physical deficiencies. Recent developments in the nascent techno-fashion industry have seen the proliferation of brands producing garments to not only enhance the human body but indeed to improve the quality of life for individuals afflicted with various physical deficiencies and impairments. Let’s take a look at some particularly inspiring innovators in this techno-fashion space.

The GPS Shoe for Tracking Alzheimers Patients

GPS Shoe

In 2011 US based GTX Corp introduced the GPS shoe, a walking shoe with a miniature GPS tracking device embedded in the heel. The inspiration for the shoe was originally spurred by a particularly tragic and high profile missing persons case in involving  the disappearance of a young child. In fact GTX CEO Patrick Bertagna originally created the shoe as a means of tracking missing children.  It wasn’t long, however, before Bertagna became aware of  an even greater need for the shoe among adult caregivers of Alheimer’s sufferers to be able to non intrusively track the movements of their patients.

GPS tracking devices for Alzheimers’s patients were not in and of themselves a new idea, even in 2011. However, prior to the GPS Shoe it was not uncommon for  Alzheimer’s sufferers to reject the devices out of fear or confusion.  The GPS Shoe provides the caregiver with a means to monitor their charges via smartphone or computer with an interactive map. The caregiver can even establish “safe zones” whereby they will be immediately notified with a text message if the patient wanders outside of a pre-established geographical perimeter.

The GPS Shoe does present some real privacy concerns as the design of the device is deliberately intended to be undetectable by the wearer. I do wonder at the potential ease of abuse of the shoe by those who seek to monitor non Alheimer’s sufferers for purely selfish and possibly dangerous reasons. However, the safety of Alzheimers sufferers as well as the peace of mind afforded their caregivers just may outweigh its’ potential threats to privacy.

Hickies: Elastic Shoelaces for Arthritis Sufferers


Hickies are an elastic shoelace replacement system that completely eliminate the need for tying shoelaces. The rubber devices feature a hook and loop fastening system intended to be fed through the eyelets of laced shoes in place of traditional shoelaces, one device per row of eyelets. Hickies, which come in one size and a rainbow of colors, are designed to replace traditional shoelaces in any type of shoe or boot. Aesthetically, Hickies can be used to customize any heretofore laceable footwear and also allow for the slipping on and off of shoes without the need to tie and untie shoelaces.

Though not developed specifically with arthritis sufferers in mind the application of Hickies for arthritis patients is tremendous. The relative ease afforded Hickies wearers effectively returns independence to those who lack the dexterity and or flexibility required to tie and lace traditional laced shoes. Additionally the devices minimizes trip and fall accidents, a potentially fatal hazard for the elderly, presented by loose or untied shoelaces. This is one I am definitely excited to see.

Nano Enhanced Undergarments to Combat Body Odor

Maxi Fresh Plus

Goldwin Company, a Japan Based clothing manufacturer, has recently introduced MXP Underwear, a line of undergarments that uses nanotechnology to combat body odor. The MXP line, which is short for “Maxi Fresh Plus,”  includes mens boxer shorts and briefs. Per Goldwin, the undergarments have the ability to eliminate 99 percent of the odor caused by perspiration and 88 percent of body odors in general. Though I am a little suspicious as to exactly how those percentages were measured, if the company’s claims are true perhaps MXP represents a breakthrough for those who suffer from hyperhidrosis, a medical condition whereby sufferers perspire excessively and unpredictably.

According to the National Institutes of Health 2 to 3 percent of the population currently suffers from hyperhidrosis. Unfortunately,  less than 40 percent of sufferers seek medical treatment for the condition. Ressons for this reticence are likely numerous however it is not hard to imagine that personal embarrassment is chief among them. If the MXP line, which reportedly has been tested in the International Space Station, does even a fraction of what it claims, then perhaps hyperhydrosis sufferers at last have a private, non-medical tool at their disposal to combat a particularly isolating and demoralizing condition.

Xeni Collection: Fashionable clothing for the Wheelchair Bound

XENI Collection

Xeni Collection was launched in 2010 by Ann Oliver, a former architect whose own fight with multiple sclerosis had left her wheelchair bound. The brand designs, manufactures and retails couture garments designed specifically for the seated figure and severely disabled wearers.

Oliver recognized a significant gap in the ever evolving high fashion landscape, that of fashion designed with the disabled figure in mind. Setting out to fill that gap Oliver re-trained in fashion and textile design and developed, from concept to production including pattern design and textile development, a line of attire to both flatter and assist severely disabled wearers. Oliver’s designs feature innovations such as magnetic fastenings for customers who have difficulty manipulating buttons and zippers. The line’s garments are specifically designed for the seated figure, recognizing that this client will most often be viewed from above. This of course represents a specific shift in the designer’s aesthetic perspective, one that heretofore was unrepresented in the world of traditional high fashion, which is generally viewed from a head-on perspective.

Xeni collection represents a brilliant and particularly inspiring techno fashion solution for the disabled fashion wearer. I do hope to see more labels emulating Xeni’s knowledge and sensitivity, and designing for this severely under served segment of the market.

Downs Designs: Garments Designed for people with Down Syndrome

Downs Designs

Karen Bowersox is another designer whose personal connection to affliction inspired her to fill a heretofore invisible  gap in the ready to wear fashion landscape, that of garments designed for people with Down Syndrome. Inspired by her granddaughter, whose parents struggled daily finding garments that fit properly, Bowersox launched  Downs Designs  in 2010 to design, manufacture and retail clothing cut specfically to fit the unique body shape of wearers with Down Syndrome.

The line features simple basic pieces for adults, teens and children, designed for easy manipulation by Down’s sufferers. The line was prototyped using eight adult models with Down Syndrome. Bowersox’s design team literally created a unique sizing scheme, dubbed “Down Sizing” designed specifically to meet the unique figure needs of Down Disease sufferers.

Proper garment  fit is paramount for Down Syndrome clients and top priority in Down’s Designs design principle. Who would have ever thought that “Down Sizing” would be a good thing?

The designers and labels profiled here represent but a few of the innovators in the techno-fashion space striving the meet the unique needs of disabled fashion wearers the world over. Fashion designed to compensate for physical deficiencies is  one of the most creatively challenging market segments to succeed in. These brands are indeed ones to be inspired by.

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