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Podcast product

Heist’s Olympic designer on product innovation

You have to be bold and brave to do meaningful innovation, says Fiona Fairhurst, VP of innovation at underwear brand, Heist Studios, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent Global.

“We’re trying to make better products that make people’s lives better,” she explains.  

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

The first product under the newly-appointed designer’s remit at Heist is shapewear that not only looks more aesthetically pleasing than existing alternatives in the market, but removes any stigma for women wearing it. Fairhurst’s background is in sport, a world built around product innovation focused on the importance of performance.

She rose to fame during the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 where, while working at Speedo, she introduced a bodysuit using biomimetic sharkskin technology that went on to help 13 out of 15 swimming world records achieved during the competition. It was also eventually banned from the sport because it gave competitors an unfair advantage.

Her background has enabled her to strike the balance between the emotional side of design and the material innovation that leads to better product performance. Much like getting swimmers to swap their small Speedos for full bodysuits, for Heist it is about getting women to trust their expertise. “We very much want to base everything on science, technology and the innovation – and also what the consumer wants, which for Heist is about women.”  

During this conversation with Rachel Arthur at a FashMash event in London, Fairhurst also explains what excites her for the future of material innovation, the challenge of scaling sustainability, and what game-changing product Heist is working on next.

Heist Studios’ new Shapewear

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by The Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick product sustainability

Puma and MIT exhibit examines how biodesign can enhance performance

Puma x MIT Adaptive Packaging

Puma has teamed up with the MIT Design Lab to explore how using living organisms can enhance a person’s performance when wearing sportswear.

Four initial experiments that derived from that study were exhibited at this year’s Milan Design Week, which took place in Italy last week.

Through this partnership, which initiated a little over a year ago, Puma and MIT have been conducting research on how biodesign – the practice of using living materials such as algae or mycelium – can bring the advances in science and biotechnologies to the consumer’s daily lives through sports products. For the MIT Design Lab, its long term aim is to make athletic gear that is “highly adaptable, personalized, and future-proof”.

The four initial projects include a Breathing Shoe, which is a biologically active shoe that enables personalised ventilation by growing its own air passageways to keep the foot cool; Deep Learning Insoles, which collate realtime biofeedback by using organisms to measure chemical phenomena that indicates things like fatigue; Carbon Eaters, which is a microbially-active t-shirt that responds to its environment to change its appearance and inform the wearer about air quality; and Adaptive Packaging, a biologically programmable material that can change its shape and structure to become a new type of alive, biodegradable and adaptive packaging.

Puma x MIT Carbon Eaters
Puma x MIT Carbon Eaters

The exhibition was powered by a desktop bio-prototyping platform by Biorealize, which brings the capabilities of a biology wetlab into a single piece of hardware that enables the user to design, culture and test organisms.

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Editor's pick technology

Hollywood steps in to give LFW a preview of an immersive augmented reality future

The augmented reality screen at steventai's LFW show
The augmented reality screen at steventai’s LFW show

Those with a beady eye will have noticed a certain Blade Runner feel to designer steventai’s London Fashion Week presentation this weekend.

While models posed onstage, a recreation of the scene was depicted on a giant screen behind them in real-time, complete with a wealth of digital augmentation – including a virtual avatar whose look transitioned from one outfit to another before viewers’ eyes, just as in a scene from the film.

It was actually a Star Wars team behind the action however. The “LiveCGX” campaign was a project between London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency (FIA) and ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment division. It included a transformation of the venue itself (it was hosted by the GREAT Britain Campaign at Durbar Court within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to look like a street scene in Macau.

Special visual effects transformed the courtyard space into a bustling scene, complete with neon digital signage, fluttering leaves and more. Meanwhile, a model in a motion capture suit backstage, made the virtual model possible – driving an improvisational series of movements reflected live on the screen amid the other models, thanks to a number of depth-sensing cameras placed around the venue. The team referred to it as a connection between real-time visual effects and human-driven expression.

As with Blade Runner, it also serves as a glimpse into a future where garments could have both physical and digital designs, worn in perfect coordination.

“Immersive technologies are leading us to a new narrative for the fashion industry. Imagine a world where you can augment everything from the clothes that you’re wearing to the environment that surrounds you, in real-time. That is the glimpse into the future that this technology offers us. LiveCGX will force us to redefine what we experience in fashion today, allowing for creative possibilities where we are limited only by our imagination. We are thrilled to bring this experience to life at this incredible venue with the support of the GREAT Britain Campaign,” says Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency.

The motion capture model backstage at steventai's augmented reality real-time show
The motion capture model backstage at steventai’s augmented reality real-time show

Interestingly for those in attendance, at this point you really had to look hard to understand what was happening with the technology. Drinkwater’s vision longer term is that we would all be able to be truly immersed in the experience by either looking through our smartphones to witness the augmented reality in the space around us, or better yet, by wearing smart glasses to see it.

At this point, he told me, the barrier is the technology just not quite being ready. “Give it six months and we’ll be able to do so much more,” he said. “We’re talking to Apple, we’re waiting for Magic Leap – the smart glasses are coming.”

That promise of the future was palpable, if still delivered in a relatively elementary way at this point. It fits with ILMxLAB’s mission to have people step inside stories, creating amazing worlds through pioneering immersive entertainment.

“What is exciting about this collaboration with steventai and London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency is the opportunity to bring the stories and worlds that have inspired Steven’s designs to life by exploring augmented live performance as a means of sparking intimate and compelling relationships with the people and characters who inhabit those worlds,” says Vicki Dobbs Beck, ILMxLAB’s executive in charge.

Tai himself added that fashion is about storytelling: “It’s about representing a concept, to sell a dream, or just selling an idea that is close to the designer’s heart. Having a digitally augmented presentation this season allows us, and our guests, to achieve and experience things beyond our physical possibilities.”

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Editor's pick film product social media technology

Gant spoofs the GIF format in new menswear performance campaign

Gant's Never Not Comfortable campaign touting its new Tech Prep line
Gant’s Never Not Comfortable campaign touting its new Tech Prep line

US lifestyle brand Gant has launched a campaign touting its new Tech Prep moisture management technology within its classically preppy garments.

The “Never Not Comfortable” ads aim to demonstrate the fact the line is made for performance without compromising on style. Developed by agency Highfield, it’s a social-first, multichannel campaign that highlights uncomfortable scenarios its men are able to seamlessly move from.

Central to that is the fact it has spoofed the GIF format to demonstrate it. The men are seemingly caught in awkward situations on a loop as per the classic GIF, but are then able to walk out thanks to their Tech Prep shirts.



“The clothes we wear today are not designed for the active lifestyle we are living – that’s why we created the Tech Prep feature. You get your favorite preppy look, never compromising on style, comfort or the hand-feel of the shirt, but with all the tech features that enables you to jump straight from your bike into a meeting feeling,” says Gant CMO Brian Grevy.

?“For such an innovative product launch, there was no other way than to create a global social media-first campaign unlike anything our consumers have seen before. The idea of spoofing the GIF and cinemagraphic format is something we believe will create attention and interest around both the brand message and the product itself,” says Eleonore Säll, ?global brand marketing director at Gant.

Gant's Never Not Comfortable campaign touting its new Tech Prep line
Gant’s Never Not Comfortable campaign touting its new Tech Prep line

Beyond the spoof GIFs (or videos), the campaign also appears in print, OOH, across digital and social, through influencer content and in-store. It’s targeting “active, well-dressed men” between the ages of 25-45.

Tech Prep is a high-performing microfibre polyester, which supports three key features for the wearer: quick drying, breathable and moisture wicking. It currently comes in a chambray shirt, check shirt and blue stripe shirt, with plans to extend it across further lines in the future.


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product technology

Reebok designs performance version of Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit

Reebok concept pantsuits for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
Reebok’s concept pantsuits for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

Reebok has reimagined US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s infamous pantsuit using its high-tech performance materials ahead of the final presidential debate tonight.

In both a marketing move and a statement of its allegiance for the election, the brand is positioning the three-look line as one that will help Clinton survive the heat of the battle, much like its elite athletes have to endure. The concept suits would be crafted from Reebok’s proprietary ActivChill fabric, a unique ventilation technology built with irregular, pentagon-shaped fibres, the team explains, all of which is designed to increase air flow through the fabric so the body stays cool and focused.

Reebok’s senior director of brand management, Inga Stenta said: “We wanted to imagine a collection of pantsuits that highlighted power and strength. Women like Clinton are tough and unapologetic. Although we don’t often see candidates sweat, the bright lights of the debate and the pressure of the national stage can raise temperatures. Performance wear seems to be the perfect choice for situations like this.

Also thrown into the suggested designs is an on-trend jumpsuit, cape and mesh neckline. The brand’s existing Dance Strappy Bra also makes an appearance. Clinton actually wore a Ralph Lauren pantsuit for the last debate.

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Events product technology

Designers imagine the future of performance-wear with 2040 sport event at Arizona State University

Running man polygonal

Arizona State University will be hosting the fifth annual edition of its Emerge festival tomorrow – an occasion that will bring together the minds of artists, scientists, storytellers, engineers, dancers, roboticists, ethicists and athletes, in creating an imagined future.

Designed to cater to a crowd of innovators and forward thinkers, the focus this year is on “The Future of Sport 2040”. The carnival atmosphere will allow for a wholly interactive experience from advanced robotics demonstrations to group TED talks with influencers from an array of industries.

Topics will include the future of cheating, the future of big data, super-cyborgs and athletes in outer space. The future of performance-wear will also play a major role, with a runway set up in the Wells Fargo Arena to convey the work of 10 designers. Concept pieces created especially for the occasion will be on show, presenting the impact of future technologies through explanations by an emcee in place of such functionality yet being possible. Once the looks have been modelled, they will take to a podium for further observation and designer Q&A.

Arizona designer Angela Johnson and Project Runway participant Emily Payne were both involved. As the owner of LabelHorde – a hub for manufacturing, design services, co-working, education and more – Johnson took the helm on rounding up designers to participate.

Angela Johnson's Future of Sport 2040 look
Angela Johnson’s Future of Sport 2040 look

She also created her own look, a piece she refers to as multi-purpose with a sleek form accompanied by breathable panels. “The technology involved is in the fibre, in that the fabric acts like a video screen. The fabric will show video of the athlete’s name, number, team logo, sponsor logo, etc,” she explains. Typically an eveningwear designer, she describes the best part of participating in the event as “pushing [herself] to think outside of [her] usual box”.

Designer Miqala Salinas meanwhile, constructed football (soccer) uniforms that include pulse-controlled heart monitors and dual temperature controls. Cristy Auble – who is otherwise a fashion merchandising teacher in Arizona – designed cheerleading outfits that are completely flexible, breathable and waterproof. She did so incorporating present day Gore-Tex or PUL fabrics, which she believes to be impressively futuristic. “This fabric is so lightweight, I can’t believe it would be as warm as my heavy wool letterman’s jacket,” she says.

Anya Melkozernova by comparison fabricated her outfit on a truly futuristic concept: “In the year 2040, humans have made it to Jupiter and have employed its magnetic surface for an obstacle course game designed to use magnets to aid the athlete through the challenges. The player will be wearing a magnet plated suit, a space helmet with oxygen supply and LED light-up shoes for the underwater parts of the course,” she explains.

Sketches of Future of Sport 2040 looks
Sketches of Sharane Dorrah, Anya Melkozernova and Miqala Salinas’ Future of Sport 2040 looks

Some designers borrowed from personal experience in coming to future solutions. Sharane Dorrah for instance designed a sleek hooded jacket in direct response to her personal battle with Lyme Disease in 2011, incorporating insect repellent into the fabric.

And industrial design grad student Jacob Sarradet, recalled his time running cross-country and track and field in high school: “I’d feel the pain in my body and wonder what it was. Was it a result of pushing myself or was something wrong?” He devised a wristband that would monitor oxygen levels in order to track the level of performance to answer some of those questions for athletes. Coming from a non-fashion background, he’s left the aesthetics of his piece up to others. A basic LED screen will be customisable, with the true styling of the garment available for download from any number of online retailers.

Joel Garreau, founding chief of imagineering and provocations at the Emerge festival, says: “[The aim] is to invent futures in which we can thrive. Not the ones we fear, but the ones we can love.”

If you happen to be in Phoenix this Friday, step into the future from 5pm to 10pm at Emerge 2016: The Future of Sport 2040.

Categories
Editor's pick product technology

Nike unveils raft of innovations including adaptive lacing and new personalisation app

Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit
Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit

Nike was in an innovative frame of mind yesterday as it unveiled a raft of tech-based sports shoes that it said represented “new breakthroughs in performance… the all-access pass to your potential”.

I must admit, I wish the announcements these companies make would be less hyperbole-laden. I always go into default sceptic mode when I hear those regular press release words like “groundbreaking,” “pioneering” and not forgetting the favourite “revolutionary”.

But to be fair to Nike, when you strip back the superlatives, you do get some real steps forward (pun intended).

Nike’s new adaptive lacing
Nike’s new adaptive lacing

The innovation came through in launches such as its “adaptive lacing” platform, as well as a “pioneering” football technology that separates mud from cleats and “transformations” in the Nike Air and Nike Flyknit lines.

Nike CEO Mark Parker also unveiled the new Nike+ app that connects athletes with the brand’s products and services “in a simple, seamless way”. The company says it delivers a personal store and on-demand coaching through a personal feed that recommends products tailored to the user, coaching for all levels that adapts to each person’s performance and schedule, and a fair bit more.

Continuing with the superlatives, here’s more of what Parker said: “Today… represents a fundamental shift in how we serve the athlete. We’ve entered a new era of personalised performance. Athletes want more than a dashboard and data – they want a more personal relationship, one that gives them real solutions and total access to the best product and services.”

Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit
Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit

What this all boils down to is innovation in materials, fastenings and soles as well as all the extra services that the app will bring. This is some of what’s coming:

  • Nike HyperAdapt 1.0: Ushering in this new era of personalised performance, it’s the first-ever step in the concept of “adaptive lacing”. That means self-tying to you and I. It delivers a precise fit that can be adjusted to the changing needs of the game so your heel will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten, although the wearer can also adjust the lacing via special buttons. Shoes using this tech will be exclusively available to purchase through the new Nike+ app, which means you won’t be able to buy them unless you sign up to Nike+.
  • Air VaporMax Flyknit: Since the advent of the Air platform 40 years ago, designers required foam and rubber to separate the Air and the foot for support and traction purposes. But not amy more as the firm’s research has allowed “these barriers [to] be removed to create maximum feel and efficiency for runners”. Nike said this development “reimagines how footwear is made and offers athletes the purest cushioning ever created”. The Air VaporMax features Nike’s most advanced Air bag unit to date. It debuts not only more extreme, targeted Air placement but also more Air than before. Discarding the traditional foam midsole, sheds weight and bulk in exchange for better flexibility, without compromising structure. Weight and waste are reduced, and placing the upper directly on the Nike VaporMax Air unit ramps up response, the company says.
  • Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit spike: This gets even more specific, introducing a knit pattern that provides mid-foot support adapted to the centrifugal force of the track. Plus, the innate construction of Flyknit eliminates the weight associated with traditional cut-and-sew uppers.
  • Anti-Clog Traction: No, it’s not a declaration of war on Crocs or traditional dutch footwear! It’s clog as in clogging, and helps prevent mud from sticking to the bottom of football boots (cleats) with a new adaptive polymer to help players avoid the slips and excess weight that can be a monumental pain.
  • Flyknit: I have to admit, the Flyknit platform was something of a game-changer and it’s now available in all sports for all athletes in all conditions, a major leap forward for a technology that four years ago launched solely for marathoners. The combinations of yarns and digital knitting techniques that make up Flyknit now offer athletes stronger and more weatherproof options.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday