Unmask: Fashion’s alternative to smog couture

Who knew we’d get to a place where wearing a respiratory mask would become the norm? As we learnt from Friday’s post, we’ve done quite a bit of damage to our air, causing life-altering consequences on a global scale. We also saw that the fashion industry wanted to release solutions that were fashion-friendly to make them more practical for daily usage. But what if you don’t want to wear a mask 24/7? Or maybe you just want a piece of fashion that isn’t a constant reminder of the air state of affairs. You know, opting for a more proactive response that can warn you about danger zones? Here are other designers complimenting the smog couture with their own take on protection from air pollution.

[Image: courtesy of Aerochromics]
[Image: courtesy of Aerochromics]
Aerochromics

Developed by engineer and designer, Nikolas Bentel, the Aerochromics line changes its patterns in response to the air pollution around the wearer. In particular, it features three types of cotton shirts that detect increased levels of carbon monoxide, radioactivity and particle pollution respectively. Once exposed to at least 60 AQI (Air Quality Index), the shirt fabric shifts colour thanks to the ‘Aerochromic’ dye; with the shirt revealing it’s full design if 160AQI exposure is reached. If the wearer wants a clearer picture of the habitat they currently reside in, Bentel’s shirts seem like a clever idea with the ability to go everywhere you go and measure everything breath.

Each piece is eponymously named after the air pollutant it’s out to detect.  The Reactive Carbon Monoxide shirt operates by remaining clear in clean air but developing black patches when exposed to patch carbon monoxide. This is because the chemical salts in the dye oxidise the carbon monoxide, changing the dye’s colour to white.

[Image: courtesy of Aerochromics]
[Image: courtesy of Aerochromics]
On the other hand, a thermo-reactive dye is used in the Reactive Particle Pollution shirt to change it’s colour. With a sensor set up in the front and the back, contact to particles such as smog, dust or soot will send an alert to a small controller that’s embedded in the shirt’s collar. The Reactive Radioactivity shirts tend to get darker with the increase in exposure to gamma rays or electron beam radiation. However, if the shirt is overexposed to high radiation doses, it will not return to its original colour. These shirts don’t come cheap, ranging from $500 to $650 USD, these are advanced fashion statements that highlight the consequences of lowly environmental actions.

[Image: courtesy of Aerochromics]
[Image: courtesy of Aerochromics]
The Bury Garment

This product is reminiscent of childhood days when you pulled in your hoodie strings a little too tight; albeit, a classier version. Designed by Yuchen Zhang, this hoodie was designed to protect the wearer from breathing in polluted air.

It appears just like a normal hoodie, but once you’ve zipped it up, the built in filtration can go to work. It’s also a product keen to make sure the decreased visibility caused by air pollution doesn’t put you in danger as you commute. It has reflective fabrics which can reflect even dim daylight as you make your way through polluted air / smog.  By acknowledging that the rising levels of pollution can be approached with a combination of style and functionality, Zhang was able to create a garment that has both adaptive and protective attributes.

[Image: courtesy of The Bury Garment]
[Image: courtesy of The Bury Garment]
Smog Free Jewellery

This has got to be a product that took the phrase ‘when life gives you lemons’ and ran with it. The aim: to reduce the amount of smog that people breathe in. Designer Daan Roosegaarde decided that this wasn’t enough and so the Smog Free Project was started to make wearing smog a safe possibility.

[Image: Courtesy of Daan Roosegaarde]
[Image: Courtesy of Daan Roosegaarde]
By creating large towers, these structures were able to work as smog vacuums via ion technology that sucks out all the smog and replaces it with clean air. The residue from this process is collected and then used to make cufflinks and rings. The company call them the ‘Gift of clean air’, because each piece represents 1000 cubic meters of air that went through purification. Plus the money from sales is reinvested in the project development and enhancing their global tour.  While the first project was launched in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2015, the smog towers and jewellery launched in smog-infested Beijing in late October 2016.

[Image: Courtesy of Daan Roosegaarde]
[Image: Courtesy of Daan Roosegaarde]
Square BB Suit 0.2

While its predecessor focused on constant connectivity, the theme of this BB Suit is pollution purified. “BB Suit: Wearable Clean Air” was created by designers Bore Akkersdijk, Eva de Laat and Martijn ten Bhömer  to show the capabilities of the future of wearable technology. (see more on wearable tech here) This suit’s wow factor is their integrated air quality measurement tech as well as it’s cold plasma tech. The former is accomplished through its inbuilt air quality sensor that can decipher which parts of the city are the most polluted or affected especially with Methane, Carbon Monoxide and LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas ).

he sensors and purification device were integrated in the garment, the spacing in the thick fabric allowed the technology to be integrated. [Image: courtesy of Square BB Suit 0.2]
The sensors and purification device were integrated in the garment, the spacing in the thick fabric allowed the technology to be integrated. [Image: courtesy of Square BB Suit 0.2]
The cold plasma technology on the other hand works to create the clean air you seek. Cold plasma is a technology that will split water and oxygen molecules into free radicals. These radicles then react with the pollutants in the air such as dust, and toxic gases and what remains is clean air. Combining both the cold plasma and the air quality measures allows the wearer more options on how to effectively deal with the pollution.

[Image: courtesy of The Bury Garment]
[Image: courtesy of The Bury Garment]
Responsive garments are more readily available than ever before. However, we’re now seeing a shift in the designer’s perspective of considering the client they are designing for. This could be taking everyday items such as shirt and changing the way it interacts with the wearer or embedding the tech in an inconspicuous manner to ensure the quality of life isn’t hindered. As we proceed with other areas of fashion’s impact on the global environment, we’ll continue to discover just how bad the situation on the ground is and what the fashion industry is actually doing about it to make a difference.

 

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