Concepts: Travel Bags Featuring Faster ‘Running’ Print

A good use of virtual worlds to showcase 3D models featuring our textile designs, without exorbitant sample costs!

Concepts: Travel Bags Featuring Faster ‘Running’ Print.

Design Inspiration, or, “Not so Smitten with Mitt in the Mitten”

I have a confession to make: You Tube. I love You Tube. It’s my ultimate time sink. It’s where I go when I want some inspiration and I’m too lazy to go out ‘into the marketplace’ or otherwise get out of my chair. As pop culture addictions come and go it’s slightly more useful than I can Haz Cheezburger (better perhaps since I can go watch Simon’s Cat).

However, lately, a Very Bad Thing has happened. I stupidly Googled Mitt Romney and visited the Wiki page about  him. Now Google has decided that I am a Screaming Right Wingnut Republican, and it’s suddenly presenting me with all of these horrific Republican Paid Political Announcements that are RIGHT ON TOP of my actual things I want to see.

I noticed this first when my 1,576th viewing of Psy’s Gangnam Style was overlaid with some red-white-and-blue cheezmo and Mitt’s ugly mug. Now at the best of times, I’m not enamored with politicians. They are liars who pander to the lowest common denominator of stupid. And that includes all stripes of stupid from Left to Right*. In general I try to ignore them, this being one case where ignorance is largely bliss. But when my personal procrastination inspiration is being messed with by ads for some cultist politico whack-a-doodle, well, this calls for action**.

Therefore, I present to you the “Not-So-Smitten-With-Mitt-In-The-Mitten” mini-textile collection, available for purchase on Spoonflower.

Let me explain this collection of TWO fine high quality prints.

First, Mitt’s head was superimposed on a rat head. My brief visit to Wiki told me that Mitt was actually named WILLARD (remember that horrid 1970s RAT movie?) Mitt Romney. But as any sensible human would, he opted to not be called by Willard (!) but instead by his middle name, Mitt. I was unclear why his family would call him ‘mitt’ unless they were following the typical Republican habit of naming their kids after the place where they were conceived or if they were naming him after a garment or object.  So it’s conceivable he was named Mitt because he was born in Michigan, the Mitten state and Mitt is short for Mitten***.

Running with that idea, I stuck Mitt’s now rat-head into a mitten. And then recolored the mitten with the red-white-blue electioneering cheezmo. The Mitt-in-Mitten was then scattered with gay abandon to create a true scatter print. Print #2 include the year 2012 in sort of honor of either the election year or the year we all went to hell in a handbasket/got Raptured. Your choice of interpretation.

So share your anti-Paid-Political-Announcement bias and go get yourself a yard or so of these fine, high quality Anti-Paid-Political-Announcements textiles and whip those suckers up into some fine high-quality electioneering ties. Yes, these prints are satire, but then, show me a politician (who you aren’t sleeping with and/or being bribed by) who isn’t satirically making a mockery of America, much less my right to watch Psy horse-ride-dance into posterity on YouTube.

Oh, yes, this is ‘how I get my inspiration’ in design (Shenlei, how did you come up with that design idea?)

* I know there are some intelligent/educated republicans. Condoleeza Rice, for starters. If they did a good video of Condie in black leather or latex in a sort of 9 Inch Nails kind of meme dominating the white/male House/Congress/World, it would definitely go into the ‘inspiration’ bookmarks.

**This is for ALL paid-political-announcements. All politicians suck. I’d be equally pissed if I had to wade through Democratic flag-waving on my Barbie Girl viewing. Although if they managed a Condeleeza-as-dominatrix-kicking-congressional-man-ass-while-yanking-their-leashes ad I would have to watch it. Some things are just…inspirational.

***Mitt should be really glad he wasn’t born in Texas (the longhorn state.) ‘Longhorn‘ is a lot for an old wrinkled white guy to live up to. Although if he had been named Longhorn and they showed evidence that might be inspirational. But I’m not entirely sure about that. It might have been barf-bag-design-inspiring.

****Saying, is all. Irritate me with your Paid Political Advertorials, end up satirized as a commercial product your neighbor could buy and make dog kerchiefs out of and walk them all over your neighborhood.

Something Completely Visionary: Fashion, Tech, Innovation, Part 5

Armed with our initial vision of a base garment that could essentially play videos or images on its surface, let’s explore some of the challenges that need to be addressed before this could become reality.

Last time we talked about comfort as it pertains to the make and manufacture of the actual garment.  This time, let’s discuss safety considerations of such a garment.

There are several areas of importance to consider with such a garment: first, of course, is the safety of the actual material used for the base garment; secondly is the safety of the circuitry; third is the safety of the power supply; and fourth is something which is often ignored by both apparel and accessories designers, the ergonomics of such a garment.

Let’s take these one at a time.

The actual material used, by its nature, will be very new to the industry.  Since it is unclear if it will something like a flexible glass, or something like a giant OLED, it’s difficult to assess the precise nature of safety concerns, but some things will always remain a concern: does the material off-gas at any point in its development or wear cycle? By this we mean are any sort of noxious fumes released by the material?

We all know about the toxic side-effects of formaldehyde and other chemicals used in various ways in the apparel industry.  We all also know how horrific a textile warehouse can smell from all of the other chemicals used in developing just the textiles alone (bleaches, aldehydes, and so on) most of which will give the user anything from a mild headache to an allergic response to, with enough exposure, various long-term health issues.

Any new material used in this way should definitely address some of these considerations, and be as inert as possible. Materials in the ware house are bad enough, with the build-up of fumes and other gaseous effluent, but covering a wearer’s body, and being exposed to the wearer’s skin presents even larger challenges to keep the wearer safe.

Beyond simple storage considerations, how would such a new material be handled, cut, constructed, packaged, and eventually, shown? What sort of health concerns might we need to have beyond the obvious ones of the material shattering easily: would this create splintering or particles which a worker would need special protective tools and garments to avoid being cut or injured?

And what about the wearer?  Would a garment made from a ew base material capable of playing back images or videos be shatter-resistant? How would the wearer be protected from possible health considerations, and how would such a material be developed to ensure the wearer’s safety?

If it possible, even, to build safety features into the material, e.g., to provide it with micropore filtration devices, to filter out pollutants and harmful radiation like ultraviolet and other wavelengths?

A garment that would enable an increased level of health and safety for the wearer would provide an exceptional boon to the wearer, who could be both stylish and safe at the same time.

Next time, we’ll look at other safety considerations.


Something Completely Visionary: Fashion, Tech, Innovation, Part 3

Armed with our initial vision of a base garment that could essentially play videos on its surface, let’s explore some of the challenges that need to be addressed before this could become reality.

Last time we talked about some of the properties needed by a material used for a base garment.  This time, let’s look at issues of comfort.

Comfort can be a very subjective term, because different cultures have different expectations of ‘comfort’ in their garments based on their societal expectations of behavior, the climate in which they are based, and the materials which are readily available and part of their cultural meme. What a culture based in the equator might regard as comfortable would not be regarded as comfortable by a culture based near the Arctic Circle.  And while this is of course an extreme example, it serves to highlight why comfort can be so challenging to define.

Nevertheless, for our purposes, comfort needs to be defined as ‘keeping the wearer comfortable in whatever climate they are in according to their societal memes.’

Most garments are made of woven textiles.  A woven textile is made of multiple threads, which cross each other at a 90 degree angle, and which are more or less tightly ‘packed’ together to form the weave. No matter how tight the weave may be, however, there are always small spaces or holes left between the crossing threads.  Even threads that to the naked eye seem to compactly touch one another are not actually completely meshed together.  These tiny holes allow air to enter the garment, and perspiration and heat to leave the garment.

Used with Attribution from Wikipedia

Warp and weft in plain weaving, from Wikiepeda, the free encyclopedia

The degree to which the fibers of the threads interconnect, the size of the thread, and of course, the spacing of the threads in the weave will all have an impact not only on the comfort of a garment, but also on its durability.

Even those materials which are not made of woven threads have small interstitial air holes or pockets, which enable garments made from these materials to ‘breathe’.  This concept of breathing is critical for comfort: in both warm and cold climates, materials that don’t breathe lock perspiration inside the garment, which eventually leads to discomfort from overheating.  In very cold climates, the inability of a textile to breathe, or vent water vapor, leads to clamminess and eventually to the wearer experiencing cold.

Any material used for a base garment would need to have the ability to breathe, regardless of whether or not it was a woven or a nonwoven.  The glass substrate might be able to have some sort of micropores (tiny holes for breathing) incorporated into it, which would help create a more comfortable material to be worn.

This question of comfort also arises in the make and manufacture of the actual garment, which we will address next time.

Something Completely Visionary: Fashion, Tech, Innovation, Part 2

Armed with our initial vision of a base garment that could essentially play videos on its surface, let’s explore some of the challenges that need to be addressed before this could become reality.

First of course, is the issue of the actual surface.  What we liked about the Corning video is the suggestion that they have a surface which could actually work as a ‘play back’ mechanism, although it is likely that wearing glass could present some challenges.

Fabric is very flexible and has a great deal of give and take, and shifts on the wearer’s body in response to movement.  It was remarkable tensile strength and can resist tearing even when subjected to substantial stresses (like those created over a joint when the limb is bent, or stresses created by the deformation of flesh in response to compression).  Glass is brittle and while appreciable changes can be made to its underlying chemistry to make it less brittle, it would also need to be able to move over the body like cloth does, which might go beyond current material science capabilities.

So perhaps Corning’s glass product wouldn’t be the best solution for the base textile, but there have been recent innovations with OLEDs (organic semiconductors) which might be suitable.  What is needed is a textile (woven or nonwoven) that has the capacity to have electronic wiring incorporated throughout the body of the garment in such a way that it can receive inputs and display those inputs on the outer surface of the textile.  The textile needs to be fluid enough to move smoothly over the body and to respond to the natural stresses place on it during the process of being worn, which could include abrasion and tearing stresses.

The textile will also need to be able to be cleaned, or to incorporate some sort of self cleaning mechanism.  There are any number of interesting innovations making their way into garments, everything from silver ions to reduce bacterial growth to the introduction of bamboo fiber, which has a natural antimicrobial which reduces the growth of microbes that cause sweat stains in fabric. There are also some interesting additions, which can help textiles shed dirt and stains more easily, as well as new ways of actually creating textiles to reduce their staining capacity.

We have also seen some interesting evolutions in the required electronic circuitry – everything from metallic inks (usually copper or silver-base inks) which can be literally printed from a special ink jet printer to lay down the pre-designed circuitry to very thin copper wire used as a thread in a weave.  While both of these solutions still have issues when applied to a garment, they both show merit in moving such a project forward. Some of the issues that will need to be resolved will be the ability to ensure that the circuitry doesn’t break as a result of standard wear caused by stresses in the stress areas of the garment/s (e.g., elbows, knees, seats, backs, and so on).

These solutions will also need to be able to be pass garment testing, and to be able to be cleaned to industry standard testing requirements.  For such a product to make it to wide-spread mass market acceptance, of course, the product itself would need to be both affordable, and the maintenance of the garment would also need to be affordable, and preferably accomplished using standard home cleaning products.

Then there’s the comfort question, which we will discuss next time.

Rumen leather tops the all-out freak factor coolness list

Every now and again we run across a new material or textile entering the apparel industry marketplace that excites an immediate reaction.  You’ll note we don’t say whether that reaction is positive or negative, just that there’s an immediate reaction.

This is in fact that case with Rumen Leather. We ran across Rumen Leather in our Materia newsletter today.  For those who don’t know what a rumen is, it may be better if you don’t read the next bit.  It’s a cow’s stomach. Moo, yes. Up-cycle a by-product into a product, yes.

Some wizard soul (Mandy den Elzen) in The Netherlands came up with the idea of tanning a cow stomach (and why not, it makes entire sense to us in a weirdly macabre sort of way given that the GI tract of an animal is basically just more skin.) Ignoring where the leather came from (the cow’s stomach) and just looking at it, we confess to being fascinated by the possibilities inherent in leather that has natural papillae all over it.  Forget velvet or fur, this stuff has legs. Well, papillae, actually.

We’re not sure how you’d deal with the ick factor – we also confess to being a bit icked out by the source of the leather itself. But the actual material does look stunning and we could envision a lot of ways it could be effectively used.  And it is unique – we’ve seen a lot of different sorts of leathers in our time. Just about any animal with a skin gets turned into leather sooner or later, from fish to toads to even turkeys, all of which by the way are incredibly cool to work with if you can get past the ick-factor of dealing with what looks like small roadkill.  But rumen leather definitely tops them all for all-out freak factor coolness.

We can imagine designing a new case for our netbook in this stuff.  It would be cushioning and a major conversation piece. “Wow, that’s a cool netbook case, I’ve never seen anything like it…what is that?”….’Cow Stomach.’  OK, so maybe that’s up-cycling a step too far, but we think this material could have real merit.

Digital Cloth: You’re Doing It Wrong

One of the areas of interest to Fashion Research Institute is the development of an accurate digital representation of cloth that simulates how cloth moves and drapes.  It’s apparently the hot trend in the tech world too, judging by how many queries we receive and requests to ‘just look at’ whatever nifty new release some tech company has come up with.  Our usual response is “nice try, the gamers and techies will think it’s nice, but it’s not right.”

We’re fashion designers with a long history of creating garments. Our first interest and our true love in fashion is the high art of couture.  Couture differs from almost all other kind of design except for Runway in that a single individual is focused on all aspects of dressing another individual. It’s true one-to-one work, and a large part of what we do as couterieres is to drape cloth on our customers or physical representations (mannequins) of our customers.  A good couteriere can create trompe l’oeil effects and make a man’s legs look longer or a woman’s bust bigger or smaller.  We can slenderize a wearer’s silhouette or we can make him (usually) appear larger.  As we work in the field, we learn first hand about cloth: its drape, its handle, what it wants to do on the mannequin.

The longer we work, the more specific textile knowledge we acquire, until after 30 years our fingertips are the ultimate augmented reality device and have forgotten more about cloth than most people ever know. We can look at a bolt of cloth and know what it will feel like before we ever touch it.  We can determine the fiber percentage by running a finger nail over the weave of the cloth and listening to the resonance of the sound that is made.  Polyester for example, has a high singing note that is unmistakable and the more poly the higher the note.

This is real expertise and you don’t get it in design school or from doing anything but manipulating cloth all day every day to produce the precise results that you want until cloth becomes part of you.

This is why we’re always bewildered when our colleagues in the tech world want us to to be thrilled about their digital models of cloth.  After all, they’ve just created a dancing model with swirling cloth, how fabulous is that?  Well, except for us it’s not that fabulous.  We don’t really know how much hard work you’ve put into your model, we just know when we look at it, it’s not right, by which we mean it’s not accurate.  We’re not excited.  We look at the models dancing and we think ‘it’s not right.’ We don’t think about the people who had to code the underlying program and how they have to figure out how the soft body/hard body deformations are going to work, how occlusions will work, how lighting and ray tracing and all the rest of that stuff is going to have to get wrapped up and made to work, and how the coders got their simulated cloth to run in a semi-reasonable render time preferably on a PC and how excited they are and how this new digital cloth stunt is going to change the (gaming) industry. Fashion designers don’t think that way about cloth, we don’t know (usually) how much work they’ve put into their code, all we think is, ‘hm, ok’, and then it’s back to reading Women’s Wear Daily. We don’t think ‘how can we use this’ because frankly, we cannot.

Tech guys….and almost all of you are guys…has it occurred to you that you aren’t asking the right questions? Or that you aren’t asking the right people?  And if you keep getting the wrong answers from the wrong people, how do you expect to get the correct answer?

A colleague sent us this article to read on New Scientist: Game Characters to get authentically rumpled clothes.  Of course we went and read, and of course we watched the video, and of course we were disappointed.   And we got a chuckle out of these quotes in the article: “According to [Carsten] Stoll [of the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, Germany], the results are extremely realistic. When he and his team showed 52 people a video of a woman dancing in a skirt alongside a reconstruction that his software had produced, the majority of viewers said that the reconstruction was “almost the same” as the original.  We have to ask, did they bother to ask the actual experts who work in cloth every day? We think they didn’t or the responses would have been very different. Mr. Stoll, we’re sorry. You’ve done beautiful work. You should be thrilled and we’re sure game designers will be too.  Fashion designers…not so much. Your cloth model doesn’t look like cloth to our trained eyes. We can’t use it for anything real.

And then this, which we thought really summed up the whole thing but didn’t go far enough: ‘But to truly fool the eye,  [Andy] Lomas [The Foundry, London] would like to see a more sophisticated version of the software reconstruct more challenging items of clothing, like buttoned jackets and well-tailored suits.”

We’re designers. The only way we want to fool the eye (trompe l’oeil) is by making people look better in their clothing by changing our cut, styling and textiles we use in their garments.  And unfortunately, when we look at these digital models out there, no one is fooling our eye.

Lomas goes on to say “Right now, no one is going to trust a computer graphics expert with no experience of fashion to design a virtual suit,”  And we say, ‘well said, Mr. Lomas, you nailed it.’ So we have to ask why are all these tech folk and mathematicians trying to create digital cloth that looks like digital cloth without actually asking the real experts?

Digital cloth: guys, you are doing it wrong.

The ‘right’ answer is hard and it is expensive. We know that. We know how to do it, we know how much it will cost, and we know how long it’s going to take.  There are unfortunately no shortcuts to the right answer to creating realistic, accurate digital cloth simulations.  And anything less is not good enough for real apparel design.