Saturday, April 15, 2006

stuffing the big carrot pillow

apparently, pillows were being built in the lab last week for a raging street pillow fight:

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Forbes on the future of fashion

Forget fancy camcorder phones and wireless internet routers; the future’s most innovative gadgets come in a strapless size 4.And we’re not talking about just any size 4. These fetching gowns will come complete with remote controls, global positioning systems and radio frequency identification tags, making catwalk shows look more like scenes from Mission Impossible than showcases of exclusive designer wear. Why? With the rapid merging of fashion and technology, future brands of haute couture will probably owe more to Cisco Systems than Coco Chanel.

Designers have been experimenting with innovative materials for years. Once-revolutionary synthetic fabrics such as polyester, Spandex, Gore-Tex and Ultrasuede are now used in a wide range of apparel and footwear. Recently, hip, Los Angeles-based denim designer Serfontaine Jeans started using DuPont’s Lycra T400, which is made from multicomponent yarns, to create stretch jeans that don’t lose their elasticity, thereby virtually eliminating the need for a belt.

But we’re not just talking about clothes made with cool fabrics that retain their shapes or better resist stains — what’s known as “smart clothing.” We’re also talking about clothing with new technology incorporated into its design, aka “wearable technology.” Many companies are already blending fashion and technology in a limited way: Burlington, Vermont-based snowboard maker Burton sells the Clone Mini Disc Jacket, which is a coat with a built-in Sony mini disc player and a remote control sewn into the sleeve. And to help fashion-forward customers keep even cooler during the summer, Japanese company Kuuchoufuku makes jackets with built-in fans.

But the real high-tech designs of the future have yet to reach the stores. These will consist mainly of technologically enabled fabrics and garments that are only being sketched out in ateliers and research labs around the world.

According to Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of Port Washington, New York-based NPD Group, wearable technology still accounts for less than 1 percent of the U.S. fashion industry’s retail sales. Although this sector is still in its infancy, the fashion industry as a whole is exhibiting solid growth. Last year, total U.S. apparel sales reached $181 billion, an almost 4 percent increase from 2004.

However, Cohen says wearable technology will eventually become a basic commodity, much like bluejeans. “Why buy a basic pair of khakis when future ones will be able to keep your legs warm with heating coils built into the lining? The future of technology in fiber and products is only a few years away.”

As usual, expect to see wearable tech and smart clothing first adopted by fringe groups such as skiers and students before the concepts catch on with the mainstream. NPD expects that ski-wear and active-wear companies, such as Nike, Columbia Sportswear, Adidas and Timberland, will be the most likely to drive development. Last year, Adidas released Adidas 1 footwear, a running shoe with an embedded microchip that monitors the terrain underfoot and accordingly adjusts the level of shock absorption provided by the shoe’s heel.

Students at the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology believe young men with a keen interest in technology are more likely to embrace wearable technology trends than are women, who will prefer “computational clothing,” which does not sacrifice its aesthetic value for the sake of technology.

In London, it’s not just clothing that is becoming technical — designers are innovating with the way clothes are fitted. Bodymetrics, a London-based fashion-technology firm, and Serfontaine Jeans have joined together to create the world’s first pair of perfectly fitted jeans. Using a light scanner, Bodymetrics has created a pod to scan a client’s body and record exact body measurements.

Once in their underwear, clients stand in a pitch-black chamber while a light flashes over their body for eight seconds. Their measurements are then recorded and a pair of “perfect fit” jeans arrive in the mail within two weeks — for $530 a pop, or more than twice the price of a regular pair of Serfontaine jeans.

But innovative clothing need not be so expensive. Students at MIT’s Media Lab are also experimenting with affordable wearable tech. Using fabrics imbued with various metals, such as organza, copper, carbon and stainless steel, they have produced conductive clothing that is still soft to the touch. Amanda Parkes, an MIT student, has been studying how “nitinol” — an acronym for Nickel Titanium Naval Ordnance Laboratory, it’s a material that contains a nearly equal mixture of nickel and titanium — changes shape during fluctuations in temperature. With the application of a small amount of heat, a nitinol-based long-sleeve shirt can become short-sleeved in seconds, while still being able to revert back to its original shape.

Some ideas are even more radical. Suzanne Lee, a senior professor at St. Martin’s School of Fashion in London and the author of Fashioning the Future, describes a ” spray-on dress” made from a chemical formula that allows you to create a temporary dress from virtually nothing. The chemical is sprayed directly onto the skin to form a cloud of non-woven cloth, which can be styled as desired. At the MIT Media Lab, students have also conjured up “epi-skin,” a piece of jewelry made from epithelial skin cells that are cultured in the lab and grown in a test tube.

Some of the concepts being explored, such as air-conditioned jackets and wrinkle-resistant sweaters, will probably be on the market before long. But others, such as talking T-shirts and airplane dresses, may never find a practical application, let alone see the light of day — no matter how cool they sound.

Now if we can get a pair of sneakers that give us a good workout without us having to move, we’d be set.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Traditional Ethiopian textiles

The following are a list of links related to Ethiopian women, textiles, and technology.

*Traditional Ethiopian textiles from the Ethiopian Women's Promotion Center website

*Guenet Fresenbet

" Guenet Fresenbet or GIGI, an Ethiopian woman on a mission to change this inferior image in the area of textiles and fashion. Using all handmade ethiopian traditional textiles and many natural dyes for her high fashion designs. 'The show featured ‘ecologically friendly’ spring and summer day wear. The playful and attractive, yet reassuringly simple designs were made from 100% traditional hand woven cotton fabrics (shemma), dipped in a variety of natural dying agents including tea, coffee, carrot and avocado."

*'Support for Growth-orientated Women Entrepreneurs in Ethiopia'

This link is to a report entitled 'Support for Growth-orientated Women Entrepreneurs in Ethiopia' which outlines, using pretty recent statistics and information (2003), socio/economic status Ethiopia and ways of improving the entrepreneurial growth of women.

It outlines a brief history of many networks, working groups, organizations concentrating on bettering women's entrepreneurial skills in both local and world markets. Based on a project that integrated the framework developed for Atlantic Canada growth-oriented women entrepreneurs, the report gives suggestions on ways of improving what is already in order as well as ideas for future projects.

Basic Human Needs, Science, and Technology'

Chapter 8. Technology and Basic Needs in Ethiopia by Getaneh Yiemene 1997

"To discuss technology to address basic needs is to discuss national development. Ethiopia has very limited resources at her disposal to allocate to the building up of a national S&T capability, although extensive and sustained development of S&T capability is required to bring about massive social and technical changes, to rapidly achieve increases in agricultural and industrial productivity, to rationally conserve and use natural resources to provide for basic human necessities (for example, food, clothing, shelter, education, and energy), to modernize communication networks _ in general, to improve the standard of living of the people. Such long-term undertakings, with limited resources, can only succeed if guided by a coherent S&T policy."

This book written and published by the UN can be read online and chapter 8 discusses Ethiopian statistics, outlines many needs and goes into detail of the science and technology policy developed in 1993 by the Ethiopian government.

*The Rise of Women Entrepreneurs: People, Processes, and Global Trends
by Jeanne Halladay Coughlin

This could be an interesting book not specific to Ethiopia but more towards motivation and empowerment of women entrepreneurs.

*Textile Engineering Department
of Bahir Dar University

*The Ethiopian Textile and Garment Sector

Overview of the Textile Sector
Companies and Products
Training Centres (could be useful for teaching locations)
Export Markets
Supply Markets

Interesting fact: the Ethiopian government employes 2/3 of all the textile manufacturing. as appossed to 1/3 private.

The Role of Women

This article outlines the need for more education for women especially in rural areas. (no so current statistics)
A need to increase women's rights, higher wages, more available jobs and equal opportunity in the work force for men and women.

*Decent Work Country Programme for Ethiopia
Mapping Participants in the Cotton and Textile Sector:
Their Past, Present and Future Action Programmes

This article reports on many sides of the textile sector: programms that have been instated to improve them and areas of future improvement. (note to self read in greater detail later.)

"The status of handloom production in the country in terms of production technology and marketing is however found to be very low and limited." (page7)

-this could be an area we could help

*Trade and Gender
Opportunities and Challenges for Developing Countries
United Nations 2004
Chapter 14

*National Policy on Ethiopian Women created in 1993