Inside the spaceflight of the hit movie “THE MARTIAN”

October 9, 2015 Leave a comment

A final warning: This entire story constitutes one continuous, scientifically grounded spoiler. Beware.

by Michael Greshko, Inside Science

Andy Weir is a cruel god, and his work has just hit the big screen.

In The Martian, his technically brilliant novel, Weir strands an astronaut named Mark Watney alone on Mars—and then proceeds to pummel him with survival tests. How is he going to eat? How will he keep warm, amid average temperatures that hover around -55 degrees Celsius (-67 degrees Fahrenheit)? Even Mars’ recently discovered briny flows would come to bear. “If I were writing [the book] again,” said Weir, “they’d be a hazard…That’d be cool.”

While the book and film adaptation—which premiered last week—get compared to Robinson Crusoe and Apollo 13 on the grounds of surviving hostile conditions, another component often gets downplayed: the rescue. Crusoe gets off his island with the help of a British ship captain nearly deposed in a mutiny. Apollo 13 safely touches down on Earth because of the heroic joint efforts of the astronauts on board and mission control. And as the film’s posters point out, it’s one thing to see Watney (played in the movie by Matt Damon) survive. It’s quite another to BRING HIM HOME.

But how do the characters in The Martian escape the god of war—and Weir? Find out below.

To answer this question, Inside Science partnered with an expert team to bring the spaceflight in The Martian to life, down to the rescue plan itself. When does The Martian take place in the real world? How would Watney’s crewmates fly back to get him if at all? And could a real-world version of the Hermes, the interplanetary crewed spaceship in the book and film, actually pull off the maneuver?

A final warning: This entire story constitutes one continuous, scientifically grounded spoiler. Beware.

Weir’s attention to detail has become legendary. While writing The Martian, he calculated the number of calories necessary to feed a stranded astronaut, worked out how burning rocket fuel could yield liquid water, and responded to swarms of early readers, who fact-checked Weir’s work with glee. He even built an orbital simulator patched together from the files of a video game he once coded. The bare-bones application, downloadable here from Weir’s website (PC only), bears hints of its former life. One of the original game’s characters, a pink infant ghost, serves as the simulator’s icon.

With simulator in hand, Weir set to work developing The Martian’s unsung character: the calendar, which brutally determines everything from radio delays to the time his characters spent away from their loved ones on Earth. His first challenge? Picking a launch date using potatoes—specifically, Thanksgiving potatoes.

“I needed their original mission to overlap Thanksgiving,” says Weir, “so that I could have an excuse for [Watney] to have potatoes.” Thanksgiving falls within the Ares 3’s month-long stay on the Martian surface, allowing Watney to scavenge the spuds and attempt to cultivate them. NASA has a longstanding policy of celebrating holidays such as Thanksgiving with upgraded meals.

Weir also needed to sync the Ares 3 launch with an astronomical synod, an alignment of the sun, Earth and Mars that occurs every 780 Earth days. Weir’s alignment hunting had nothing to do with astrology; time your launch with the synod, and your Mars mission can leave and return to Earth after efficiently orbiting the sun once. Missions ignoring planetary alignment would require either an absurd amount of propellant or years’ worth of loop-de-loops to return to Earth.

Cross-referencing future synods with a Thanksgiving Mars stopover eventually yielded an Ares 3 launch date of July 7, 2035. And the rest slowly, surely fell into place, as presented below in this exclusive Inside Science infographic (click here for full view):

A quick note: The Martian movie fiddles with the book’s timeline. Watney is accidentally stranded on the Red Planet after a freak dust storm tears through the Ares 3 mission, forcing a mission abort. In the book, this catastrophe happens after six days on Mars. In the movie, however, eighteen days peacefully elapse before the perfect (and physically impossible) storm. There’s a good reason, though, for the tweak. According to Weir, delaying the storm was critical for the plot to pass director Ridley Scott’s smell test.

In the book and film, Watney needs to make fertilizer for his potatoes, so he is forced to rehydrate and stir up his crewmates’ abandoned solid waste. Scott wanted Watney’s manure moment to really hit home.

“Ridley said, ‘Well, six days’ worth of output from six people isn’t going to be that much,’” Weir recalled, so the film’s writers bought Scott an extra dozen days of defecation.

But for all his research, there was only so much Weir could do to make his spaceflight realistic for the book and film. The math necessary to optimize his mission was, in a word, “gnarly.”

What would happen, then, if professional mission designers picked up where Weir left off?

First things first: “rocket science” is synonymous with “obscene difficulty” for a reason. A given NASA mission might require a flight of billions of miles that could take months, if not years, to complete. Planets, moons and asteroids create gravitational gullies that alternately help or hinder your travel. And to top it all off, your spacecraft needs to be as light as possible, in order to get it into space at all.

Thankfully, NASA has at its disposal a crack team of mission designers, who map out rockets’ routes with stunning accuracy. NASA’s wildly successful New Horizons probe, which flew by Pluto in July, covered over 3 billion miles to get out to the solar system’s icy outskirts, coming within 45 miles of its ideal line. Yanping Guo, the mission’s lead trajectory designer, had managed to pull off the equivalent of hitting a hole-in-one in Los Angeles from a tee box in New York City.

To work similar magic on The Martian’s trajectories, Inside Science reached out to Laura Burke and Melissa McGuire, two mission designers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. Not only have both sketched out plans for crewed Mars missions; they’re also avid fans of the book and had wanted to put it to the test.

“We were really looking for an excuse to do something very fun and exciting,” said Burke.

At first blush, Weir’s mission “is actually pretty sporty,” said Burke. NASA’s plans for crewed Mars missions typically take something on the order of 500 days, round-trip. Weir’s regularly scheduled mission, however, takes about 400, in large part because of his massive spacecraft. (More on that in a bit.) But Weir’s route is a comparative clunker up next to NASA’s optimized Ares 3 mission.

“He cheated a little,” she said.

Burke’s most efficient trajectory for the Hermes gets the Ares 3 crew to Mars on October 11, 2035, some 24 days earlier than Weir’s arrival. From a fuel-economy perspective, choosing Burke’s trajectory is a no-brainer. Her route requires about 30 fewer tons of propellant than Weir’s, slashing the mission’s engine use by 23 percent. Those savings multiply when you consider that fueling the Hermes requires blasting propellant into orbit—and that those extra 30 tons could costat least $120 million just to get up there, if we did it today.

However, Burke’s path has its drawbacks. Her optimized flight plan potentially dooms Mark Watney to a spudless Martian stay. If the Ares 3 crew only stayed on the Martian surface for 31 days, they’d celebrate Thanksgiving 2035 aboard the Hermes, regardless of whether or not the mission is aborted. But let’s throw Matt Damon a bone here. In the optimized timeline, the Ares 3 crew could have planned to celebrate Veterans Day on their last day on Mars (November 11, 2035) with a meal including fresh potatoes. Two members of the Ares 3 crew are veterans (Commander Lewis and Martinez).

Weir’s flight plan has another hidden plus. Aborting the mission on Weir’s Sol 6—November 13, 2035— puts the Hermes on one of the most efficient possible return routes to Earth, saving most of the extra 30 tons of propellant. It turns out that those unlikely reserves are critical to pulling off the “Rich Purnell maneuver,” a daredevil rescue of Watney spearheaded by one of Weir’s characters, a genius, socially awkward NASA mission designer of the same name. In the clip below, you can see the film’s Purnell (played by Donald Glover) explain his scheme to NASA higher-ups with the help of a stapler.

The plan, a ballsy tour-de-force of trajectory design, adds 533 days and over 600 million miles to the Ares 3 crew’s mission, but it allows the Hermes to double back to Mars, ultimately saving Watney’s life. In fact, Purnell is one of the main reasons why McGuire and Burke are such big fans of the book. “The mission designers are heroes and save the day!” wrote McGuire.

But does the math of Purnell’s course check out?

“The Rich Purnell maneuver is very interesting,” says Burke. “If it were do-or-die, I think it would be a good way to go.”

That said, Purnell’s celestial ballet is brutal on ship and crew alike. The trajectory heavily modifies the Hermes’ return flight to Earth, cleverly using Earth’s gravity to fling the Hermes by Mars mere weeks before Watney is scheduled to run out of food. The Hermes would scream by Mars at about 5.4 kilometers per second (12,000 mph), giving the Ares 3 crew a single chance to rendezvous 62 miles above Mars’ surface with a rocket containing Watney.

The stakes would be high. In Weir’s and Burke’s versions of the maneuver, both Watney and the Hermes havehyperbolic trajectories, flight paths that don’t loop back to form closed orbits. In other words, the two would never cross paths again, all but dooming Watney to a frigid death if the Hermes missed. “From an orbital perspective, these rendezvous work,” says Burke, “but they’re very, very scary”—the celestial equivalent of hitting a bullet with another bullet.

Purnell’s maneuver poses a second, more insidious risk. The path requires an uncomfortable amount of time inside Venus’ orbit, “which is a big red flag,” Burke says, because of the radiation emanating from the sun. When sketching out crewed Mars missions, NASA designers usually avoid coming within 75 million miles of the sun for this exact reason. But at its worst, Purnell’s maneuver takes the Hermes within 45 million miles, roasting it with over four times the solar radiation that Earth receives—without the planet’s protective atmosphere and magnetic field. The Hermes’ systems and electronics would probably be pushed to their limits, having not been designed with so much heating in mind. And the Ares 3 crew would assuredly face a higher cancer risk from 533 extra days of radiation exposure—a danger never discussed in the book or movie.

That said, the Ares 3 mission couldn’t have picked a better time to fly the Rich Purnell maneuver, according to Don Hassler, a space radiation expert at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. Around that time, the sun will be its solar maximum, a period of high activity that would inflate the heliosphere, the shroud of particles and gases around the sun. While these particles pose a radiation risk themselves, says Hassler, they’d actually shield the Hermes from nasty, high-energy cosmic rays. In all, the Ares 3 crew would likely face a ballpark radiation dose of 1 Sievert, about twenty times more than a nuclear reactor employee is likely to face in a year of work.

Radiation, then, would be a risk but wouldn’t be a deal-breaker. “If I were an astronaut and I was trying to rescue a colleague,” said Hassler, “I’d be willing to accept that risk.”

Overall, the mission could be flown, but the only reason the maneuver works at all is because of the specs of Weir’s Hermes. Could an actual spacecraft complete Weir’s mission?

In Greek mythology, Hermes was the messenger of the gods, zooming here and there on magical, winged sandals.The Martian’s Hermes is faced with a similarly staggering task: shuttle five Ares missions, including the ill-fated Ares 3, to and from Mars over the course of a decade, zooming along at tens of thousands of miles per hour. To figure out how this propulsion system worked, Inside Science turned to Alec Gallimore and Scott Hall, researchers at the University of Michigan’s Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

“The Martian kind of is the best-case scenario,” said Hall, but as far as rockets go, the Hermes is physically plausible.

No matter their build, all rockets work essentially the same way: shoot propellant in one direction, and the spacecraft goes the opposite way. (Thanks, law of conservation of momentum.) Rockets vary in what they spray out, how they spray it out, and how much oomph a given spritz packs. Chemical rockets such as the Apollo program’s Saturn V are bombs with nozzles, zooming on the hot gases produced from burning fuels with liquid oxygen.

But chemical rockets, which provide quick, powerful thrust, probably won’t do for Weir’s Hermes. Mars missions need tortoises instead of hares: slow, steady electric propulsion that can run for months at a time. When Weir wrote The Martian, he envisioned that the Hermes would have a mass of 110 metric tons and would accelerate continuously at 2 millimeters per second per second. The oomph required to do this wouldn’t exactly give a passenger whiplash; the Hermes’ 0-to-60 time would be over three-and-a-half hours. But if the Hermes put the pedal to the metal for weeks at a time, that slight acceleration could build up some serious speed.

What engines would deliver this kind of performance? In the book and the simulations that Burke and McGuire ran, the Hermes uses a technology known as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR (“vas-meer”). The VASIMR technology heats gas into plasma and then magnetically shoots it out as propellant. On paper, VASIMR is fantastic tech. It allows for super-smooth throttling, and according to the company trying to make VASIMR, it could get a spacecraft to Mars in as little as 39 days.

“It’s a great concept, and it’d be game-changing if it does work,” said Hall.

However, that’s a major “if.” VASIMR engines haven’t been tested in space, and it’s unclear if they’d be ready in time for the first Ares mission, which a teaser for the film pegs to the year 2029. They are also power hogs, straining credulity. Inside Science’s VASIMR mockup of the Hermes gobbles over 17 megawatts of power, the appetite of 14,000 US households. “We don’t usually assume VASIMR for a lot of what we do,” said Burke.

NASA has other options, though, if VASIMR doesn’t work out. At the University of Michigan, Alec Gallimore and Scott Hall are building the world’s most powerful Hall thrusters, a type of propulsion system that many satellites already use to stay in orbit.

Hall thrusters use powerful magnets to confine electrons above a trench with a positively charged bottom. Starved of electrons, the trench immediately shears the electrons from gas particles pumped into the trench, leaving the particles positively charged. These positive particles then rocket out of the trench toward the negatively charged electrons hovering above them, generating thrust as they escape.

The University of Michigan’s X3 Hall thruster, the world’s most powerful and the subject of Hall’s current PhD research, can produce about 20 Newtons of thrust, similar to gravity’s pull on a 5-pound bag of Martian potatoes. And like VASIMR, these highly efficient engines can operate for days, if not weeks, at a time. Based on Gallimore and Hall’s calculations, an array of 30 next-gen X3s would be plenty to get the Hermes there and back.

The added plus? The necessary Hall thruster already exists, more or less. Gallimore and Hall are currently putting the X3 through its paces in the laboratory. “I would love to have [Weir] come to the lab and just show him that the technology described in the book is real,” said Hall. “It works.”

So in theory, we could equip a Hermes with an engine capable of following the trajectory of The Martian, but we now run into a major problem. Frankly, we don’t know how to power it.

To get the performance that Weir’s trajectories expect, the Hermes would definitely need an onboard fission nuclear reactor, perhaps supplemented with solar panels. But according to Chen-wan Yen, a renowned mission designer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the necessary reactor would probably be prohibitively large. “The disappointing reality always has been the massiveness of the power plant,” she wrote. And there’s that not-so-tiny issue of launching a nuclear reactor into space.

In fact, NASA has effectively foresworn the nuclear (reactor) option, focusing its gaze on craft that would only use solar-powered systems. The Hermes, though, couldn’t last on such measly electric morsels, particularly out near Mars, where the sun glows more dimly. Hall guesstimates that a purely solar-powered Hermes would have 200 kilowatts of power available for propulsion, a fraction of what it would need to complete the book and movie’s trajectory.

In other words, the map to Mars checks out, and the Hermes has a sufficiently beefy engine under the hood. We just need a fission reactor that’s so impractically large, it fills up the entire passenger cabin. At present, Weir’s Ares 3 mission would have a hard time setting off for Mars exactly as described in the book.

Let’s not lose sight, though, of the fact that NASA would have no problem getting people to Mars by the 2030s, albeit on a less zippy ride. “Andy Weir’s Martian trips can be synthesized in more than several ways with technologies we can rely on now,” said Yen. In fact, NASA scientists including Burke and McGuire have come up with several mission designs that sip far less power.

And that’s completely okay. The story of The Martian is just that: a story. Science fiction, even its “hardest,” most realistic permutations, exists to take audiences on a ride, not to feed people technical appendices.  One of the first credible, technically comprehensive Mars mission designs was dreamt up by rocketeer Wernher von Braun for a novel he wrote in 1947 and 1948. For all that von Braun knew his rockets, though, Weir wins the literary head-to-head. Dr. von Braun’s dialogue is terrible.

To Weir’s immense credit, he has crafted a story so plausible, the science serves as a quiet yet potent narrative engine, letting the human elements shine.

“You think of The Martian as science fiction, but you really could just call it fiction,” Weir argues.

Fiction, though, allows for some massaging of the actual science, as our analysis and others like it have shown. But Weir doesn’t mind the nitpicking.

“I have inadvertently educated people a lot about Mars,” he says with a laugh.

Top Image: The Martian. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

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This is a pretty cool trade deal. Here’s why:

October 7, 2015 Leave a comment
The White House, Washington

I want to explain to you why I’m on board with the President’s plan for trade.

I was 21, sitting at a desk in my dorm room, scribbling out an idea I had for a business on paper. I had spent months pressure-washing moss off of people’s driveways during the day and delivering pizzas at night to raise enough money to create this startup — but had no real idea how I was going to do it.

But that’s the great thing about this country — if you’ve got an idea, and you share it with the right people, you can actually turn a spark from your imagination into a reality for customers all over the world.

That’s what drives all of us at Greenvelope (the Seattle-based company I ended up successfully starting). We provide elegant electronic invitations to people looking to bring their events into the 21st century in an eco-friendly way.

That’s a lot of people — and many of them live outside our borders, in countries like Canada and Australia. That’s the cool thing about running an online business: You can reach people halfway across the world with the art you create here at home.

But we rely on fair rules and a free and open Internet to provide the best service — and to reach those customers. And right now, there are obstacles to that very simple mission. For instance, some countries have tried to force business owners like me to physically locate our infrastructure (like our servers) in their country in order to serve their people. That would essentially bar small businesses like mine from selling to other markets.

That’s why it matters to me that the President has secured the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a trade agreement that levels the playing field for entrepreneurs like me so we can sell more Made-in-America products abroad and support more jobs here at home.

With the TPP, any entrepreneur can sell to anyone with an Internet connection in the countries that have signed on. That’s a huge deal for online businesses like mine — businesses that are becoming a bigger part of our nation’s economy.

But we’re not just about the bottom line. For us, doing right by the environment is part of our DNA. In fact, we are a proud member of 1% for the Planet, so part of our proceeds go toward protecting the greenway along the I-90 corridor here in Washington State.

That’s why I like how much the TPP does to protect the environment — something I’m realizing a lot of people don’t know. It includes the most robust and enforceable standards on the environment of any trade agreement in history. That includes standards that protect and conserve iconic species, like rhinos and tigers; that promote long-term conservation of marine life, like whales, dolphins, and sea turtles; that combat wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, and illegal fishing; and that protect the marine environment from shipping pollution.

If you’re as surprised as I was that trade can impact that much, you should dig in to the deal here:

I know there’s a lot of back and forth about this deal, but here’s the important thing from my perspective:

We’re a young company. We’ve got an American-made product that people want. This deal ensures we will be able to continue to deliver these products effectively for the foreseeable future — no matter where the customer lives. And it makes our world a little greener too.

And that’s something worth fighting for. Thanks for listening.


Sam Franklin
Seattle, Washington

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Microsoft Turns On the Hardware Charm

October 7, 2015 Leave a comment
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
For the latest updates, go to »
Daily Report
Microsoft Turns On the Hardware Charm | Phones. Tablets. Laptops.
Made by Microsoft?
The giant software company continued its foray into the hardware business on Tuesday, introducing a suite of new products. The one that generated the most surprise was the company’s new laptop – the first laptop from Microsoft. Called the Surface Book, the computer can pull apart at the hinge so that the screen turns into a large tablet. It is not cheap, at $1,500.
As Nick Wingfield noted, the new hardware shows how Microsoft has had to adjust in the face of competitors like Apple and Google.
But what the devices also demonstrate is how crucial Windows 10, Microsoft’s latest operating system, is to the company’s future. This is no secret; the company has been pointed in this direction for a long time. All the new devices, though, use some form of Windows 10, part of giving consumers – and developers – a more seamless experience. With its hardware, Microsoft is showing other Windows device makers the way forward.
For now, that promise is not much more than a marketing pitch, because sales of the devices are still dwarfed by those of competitors. But perhaps Microsoft at least has our attention now.
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Today’s Top Stories from Fierce Retail

October 7, 2015 Leave a comment
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NYSE moves to delist American Apparel after Chapter 11 filing

October 6, 2015 Leave a comment

The New York Stock Exchange has halted trading of American Apparel shares and is moving to delist the company’s stock. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

American Apparel said it has received a notice from the NYSE informing it that the exchange has determined that “the company is no longer suitable for listing….”

The pre-dawn announcement by American Apparel came one day after the company filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

The NYSE notice states that in reaching the delisting determination, the exchange “noted the uncertainty as to the timing and outcome of the bankruptcy process, as well as the ultimate effect of this process on the value of the company’s common stock,” said the company statement, adding that American Apparel “does not intend to appeal the delisting determination.” It added:

“As previously stated, the company cautions that if the restructuring transactions contemplated by the restructuring support agreement filed in the Bankruptcy Court are consummated, the company’s existing common stock will be extinguished and the holders of the common stock will not receive any consideration.”

American Apparel said Monday it was filing for bankruptcy after reaching a deal with 95 percent of its secured lenders. The restructuring agreement will take the company private and hand nearly 100 percent control to its largest bondholders.

Among the shareholders who will be forced out by bankruptcy proceedings will be founder Dov Charney, who was ousted last year as chief executive and chairman amid allegations of inappropriate behavior involving employees and financial misconduct.

Paula Schneider, who came aboard as chief executive in January, said filing for Chapter 11 was the right decision for American Apparel as it carried more than $300 million in debt.

But analysts said that despite the reduction in debt, American Apparel’s underlying problems remain: lackluster product offerings, too many stores and high production costs, with about 4,600 manufacturing and sewing employees in Southern California, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Schneider says she plans to continue with a turnaround plan that includes freshening up products, streamlining offerings and reducing costs, according to The Times.

For the last several months, American Apparel has been focused on launching fall fashions that were supposed to showcase the company’s new creative direction. But because of the cash crunch, only about 15 percent of the new products were made, Schneider said.

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Developing A Product? Use This (Real!) Sample Budget As A Guide

October 4, 2015 Leave a comment

images (2)

 As an Industry Specialist at Maker’s Row, one of the questions I’m asked almost daily is “How much is it going to cost to make my <insert product name>?” My answer is always the same: there is no quick and easy answer! Estimating costs requires time and research and even within a specific product category, there is no one-size-fits all approach.

Why is the subject of cost so individual? Because the decisions you make when designing, sourcing, and producing your product affect your cost in unique ways. For example, opting for a zipper closure on a garment instead of snaps may raise the price of materials. Producing in North Carolina instead of in New York City may reduce assembly costs. Making a children’s toy that requires extensive testing may be more expensive to develop than a similarly constructed pet toy that has no associated testing requirements. And the list goes on.

Photo Credit; Hunter White

While quick answers may be hard to come by, with a little research and a basic understanding of the steps involved in making something, you can paint a reasonably realistic picture of how much money you’ll need to produce your goods.

Below is a sample budget for an activewear top. You can use this budget as a checklist for securing your own estimates with vendors, or simply for ballpark figures as you wade into production for the first time. Please note however that your own budget may vary widely based on the complexity of what you’re making. Further, if your product requires molds or dies (for shaping or cutting certain materials) or other tooling, your budget punch list will look different. Want help with budgeting? Consider signing up for a consulting session.


Development costs are one-time fees for work related to creating or refining your product design. People with creative backgrounds may be able to avoid certain development costs by doing some of the work themselves. Others will be totally reliant on the help of patternmakers, technical designers and other creative professionals in order to prepare their design for production.

Development of Activewear Top

  • Design Boards: $500 – Technical line drawings showing the construction and style of the garment.
  • Fabric Sourcing: $350 – Finding a source for production fabric. Some people prefer to skip this step with a development partner and do their own sourcing research.
  • Trim Sourcing: $125 – Finding sources for things like buttons, cords, etc. Some people prefer to skip this step with a development partner and do their own sourcing research.
  • Label Design: $300 – Graphic layout of care and brand label(s)
  • Hang Tag Design: $300 – Graphic Layout of hang tag affixed to garment.
  • Samples: $850 – Three rounds of prototypes to develop design, plus cost of sample materials.
  • Patternmaking: $550 – Sewing patterns for all phases of sampling. Includes revisions to patterns based on in-person fittings.
  • Grading and Sizing: $725 – Make patterns for all necessary sizes. Sew test samples for size range to confirm fit.
  • Tech Pack: $300 – Master document outlining measurements, materials, construction more.
  • Meeting Time: $250 – Meetings with development team to review and discuss the design.
  • Shipping: $100 – Shipping samples and materials between development team and client.


Photo Credit; Hunter White


Production costs are the recurring invoices you will pay each time you produce a run of your product. They include all materials and assembly steps, such as cutting and sewing, and are almost always inversely correlated to volume. For example, the more fabric you order, the lower the cost per yard.

Production Costs for 100 pcs of Activewear Top:

  • Fabric: $700 – Fabric order for production.
  • Trims: $230 – Trim order for production.
  • Labels: $50 – Label order for production.
  • Hang Tags: $30 – Hang tag order for production.
  • Cut/Sew: $1,400 – Cutting, sewing and trimming the garment.
  • Packing: $50 – Affixing hang tags and packing finished garment in polybags.
  • Freight: $30 -Shipping 100 pcs finished product to final destination.


BUFFER: $700

Approx 10% of total budget, to cover unexpected costs
TOTAL BUDGET……………$7,540



Here are a few additional costs that may be applicable to your project.

Testing: Are you making an item that requires testing with a certified agency? Children’s products in particular must meet federal requirements. Contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission with questions.

Quality Control: Will you pay someone to be on-site to monitor quality? Or will you yourself do this? If so you’ll need to account for hourly fees plus travel costs.

Additional Shipping: When you are researching the cost of fabric or materials, does your estimated price include freight? Make sure anything that needs to move from one point to another – including samples, materials and finished goods – is included in your budget. I recommend adding in at least several hundred dollars for miscellaneous freight fees.

‘Over-Budget’ Costs: What happens if your development work takes more time than expected? For example, you secured an estimate for three rounds of prototyping, but you actually need five in order to reach a sample you are satisfied with. Including a 10-20% buffer in your budget for unexpected costs is a wise move.

Still need budgeting or project management assistance after this primer? Reach out to our Industry Specialists for individualized attention as you ideate and develop your products. 

Get Budget Conscious In Every Area Of Your Business:

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FASHION OBSERVED October 4 2015 (and back thru August 4 2015)

October 4, 2015 Leave a comment

Sunday, October 4th 2015 1:54 PM

Risky Business

The Italian Spring Summer 2016 collections have come and gone and will be mentioned in the near future, for they too have shown the emerging security of exploration as we edge further into our new century. Now, the focus is on Paris, known traditionally as the platform of creativity.

As our technology breaks down the walls of compartmentalization, we find that other designers in various places are not letting location stop them from vying for our attention. Some are playing with a change of locale to gain footholds and exposure in different markets (such as what KTZ did in a previous season or what Givenchy or The Row did this one), while others are testing other locations to take advantage of less competition to access better attention in our global net world (such as by Damir Doma in Milan).

We are testing our limits, exploring new areas, new methods, new materials and new techniques. We do so as we have little to lose, seeing the possibilities and the tenuousness of these simultaneously as we brave efforts. We feel the hope and the fear and do it anyway. It is the intimacy of personal chance that we are taking in the quest for authenticity.

Just as in the late 80s, we let loose on creativity as we took chances to break new ground. We knew the economy couldn’t survive the credit bubble it was built on. But to inspire those to participate in the continued creative explosion fueled new ideas. Although the issue is not in similar foundations, the unease is back again rooted in familiar fears, so we can hold onto fear or we can push ahead; fashion has decided, like us, on the latter.The freedom of “going for broke” is how Alexander Wang expressed it as he made his last collection for Balenciaga. It was noted by Vogue Runway as the best he put out if only because he felt he had nothing to lose. And so, just as in the 80s when we unleashed ourselves we find again breaking new ground because…well…what do we have to lose? Such was a similar sentiment with Hussein Chalayan as he gave commentary on his Cuba-themed collection and the collaboration with his show’s sponsor, Swarovski with plain paper dresses melting into glamour mid-show as they met a rush of water from shower heads above (along with his self-admitted amusement of the occasional model slipping on the water or the lost heel of those fabulous cylindrical-heeled shoes).

And so, in the Paris collections…and, really, of the globe’s more progressive collections this season so far…the ease of slouch and drape is met with the freedom to create in the mix of deconstruction and architecture, upholding and upending structure. The play of assembly, layering and form is the personal risk, the go-for-broke approach, the fearless ascent we take because the future waits for no one and to be part of history requires to participate in its incarnation, even if it means some retreading as part of the process.

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Saturday, September 26th 2015

9:47 PM

Outsiders As The Insiders

T he Spring Summer 2016 collections have left London and are brushing through Milan towards the home stretch that is Paris. The dialogue is now, besides the examination of trending details is the comparisons of what is coming out of each major fashion center.

Common within each city is the continued homage to the 70s and 90s, which is where the 70s first returned. And while the experimental spirit of the 80s is said to have never left fashion since that decade, the current modern incarnations are more of a 2.0 version of this. If New York’s take on modernism was more architectural, London’s contains the artist, released from the confines of the mind in the quest for the new.

Sometimes this requires breaking away for convention to achieve new inspiration that takes the designer out of the comfort zone of all that is familiar to move fashion forward. While New York holds the position of leading the way for commercial appeal, London has had the reputation of catering to breaking with convention when it comes to its more expressive class of talent, competing with the ultimate stronghold of fashion that is Paris. And as the economics pull many towards what is safe, others see the dangers of that strategy that brought down many houses in the 90s. Unlike the early 90s, we are in a different position as we are now heading into a new century and millennium and are aware of this unspoken expectation to go beyond what has been worn for too long: the 20th century costume. This different circumstance competes with the desire to remain static, challenging us to evolve lest we remain stuck in the past.

To balance this, the forms conform to convention in the ultimate silhouettes for the most part. But even then some of the more progressive labels are looking to push meeting those  expectations by toeing the line towards the edge of what was accepted that is on the edge of the norm. Our past avant garde has provided the platform for us to play without straying too far from the familiar, even if what was familiar before was originally pushing the limits.

The evolution comes in the manner in which designers play with shapes and forms that contributes to the assembly, allowing for exploration where no precedents have been established nor has there been any accompanying instruction or structure to guide the creative process where new territory is concerned. The outsider approach, if you will, working towards evolution has begun.

Collections such as those by Alexander Lewis, Christopher Kane, Fashion East’s Caitlin Price & Richard Malone, J.W. Anderson, Jean-Pierre Braganza, MM6 Maison Martin Margiela, Phoebe English, Roksanda and Toga took the artistic route of unbridled combinations with portions and pieces. Some played with shapes exploring literal concept execution while most incorporated component layering to create new expressions of form. The overall effect sets the stage for departure from convention while retaining enough of the familiar. The latter honors economics as fashion is a business but the former cannot be ignored as we head further into our new century and millennium. we’re too far into the century to keep holding onto the past. We have to grow and sometimes this means taking the path less traveled to get there. This innate drive couples well with our acceptance that we are no longer in our last century, even if we are from it and still enjoy cultural ties to it.

Milan, of course will be about impeccable construction, craftsmanship and materials that bow to tradition (barring a few exceptions…but that’s another article). This will always have a lace in our world. But as we now look towards the future, the next platform supporting this evolution this season is bound to be seen in Paris as well, and it will be interesting to take their pulse on looking forward versus holding onto the past as we look for what creative clues will show how they embrace what is to come.

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Saturday, September 19th 2015

5:25 PM

Recombinant Deconstruction Is It’s Name-o

N ow, as you read this, the Spring Summer 2016 collections are continuing in London, while discussions about the impact of the collections shown in New York are underway …well…everywhere that fashion matters. There is much dialogue about the energy of the collections as, amidst the retro continuance, there was also some experimentation from some designers. These braver souls want us to move forward and have the customer base that can share similar sentiments while sustaining their existence.

While the safer routes such as the dominance of 90s and it’s primary retro influence, the 70s, have come into play, another aspect of the late 80s/early 90s has returned again to foster this noted creative effort: deconstruction.

Not that it ever really left. Its formal introduction in the 80s is only partially correct. The 70s punk movement was the precursor for the cut-and-paste approach while the combination of artistic recombinant chaos noticed in art via groundbreaking movements such as Dadaism and the exploration of deconstruction as philosophy by 60s Jaques Derrida (two period sources that had impact the 80s) provided inspiration for the next logical step.

Next step? Well, fashion was getting more creative and changing more frequently. It was becoming a game amongst the fashion conscious to speculate what was next. Clothes were increasingly heavily structured with a focus of cuts and detail of execution. After years of carefully measured and structured garments, one could not shake that the source had remained static in the face of changing times. Look at men’s wear; in two hundred years the basic components had barely progressed; you still had a jacket, vest, shirt and pants, no matter how you dressed it up with flourishes such as a new collar or hem length. Women’s wear fell along classics from the decades that preceded it and we were hungry for more.

With technology on the rise came new textiles with qualities that gave room for new possibilities. The full globalization our technology was beginning to offer combined with the encouragement of consumption the times supported to pull us out of the frugalness of the decade before. All this was a great recipe to open our minds to what was new. The future…the 21st century…was coming fast and many of us would live to be there.

The Japanese, in particular Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcon, Yohji Yamamoto and textile genius Issey Miyake, were flush with cash and eager to make their mark. They brought new visions and ideas sorely needed in fashion to a generation hungry for change. Their groundbreaking designs challenged convention in a quest for a new form, a new silhouette, a new voice to take us into the future instead of being stuck in the 20th century. And in that play, they further inspired designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier to push forwards with new combinations of elements much like we are doing now. His protege, Martin Margiela, took this a step further, following the deconstructive philosophy of destruction in order to create. Out of the shreds and loose threads came new shapes and new ways of being. If fashion was about structure and order, deconstruction was to turn it on its head to uncover what was never even before conceived in the quest for something truly new. this meant eschewing convention in construction techniques, mixing up the order, leaving hems undone to celebrate the nature of the textile, pulling together new assembly to find new forms and throwing together any addition or absence of the process in the name of innovation. The period had provided the mindset to invite and appreciate it. The conditions were perfect. But the flaws came just as the economy tanked. The appreciation of decay was an ill fit, for it reminded of those less fortunate who were increasingly present casualties of a new economic condition, and the times just weren’t mature enough for creativity on this level to be accepted in the mainstream. So it took a rest in favor of what we have relabeled (or marketed) as normcore, of grunge, of sportswear of what was widely palatable.

We know the rest. We lived the path to where we are now. We lived through deconstruction’s reappearance that came, again, ill-timed when the event of 9/11 made shredded clothes an exercise of insensitivity and bad taste. But the draw of its concept as a vehicle for finding new forms and new silhouettes did not leave us, and so it continues to be part of our vocabulary of who we define ourselves. We see the world through a highly charged cacophony of information in real time at our fingertips, a mixture of everything the world offers as we become truly global. And we have drilled in the message of uniqueness as having value despite our penchant to conform. The DIYmovement, 3D printing, increased customization offered online…all of it now before us…support our desire for what is new. Even the retro looks contain the details that our 21st century cannot avoid, be it in the tech intrerwoven or the innovation that comes with new concepts in textile science. Despite whatever may touch our fears, it is perhaps our desensitization of the facts we have grown accustomed to as we push forward. The future will not stop coming and ultimately we will not stop evolving.

And so, with each season closer to the 2020 mark, we find every component that takes us step by step to our impending 21st centrury identity. So we see deconstruction. It is this time polished and clean, exact in the execution as we find a way to preserve our class distinction while providing the service of throwing new ideas to see what connects and carries forward.

The issue now is not merely where we are taking this, but how. These elements all still hinge on everything that is 20th century. The collars that become cap sleeves or upended bodices may explore new forms, but the components are still assembled from the minds and parts of the 20th century. what is missing is what is 21st century: our technology. We have innovations in seamless construction and 3D printing now explored in garment construction. The new level of deconstruction will be recombinant deconstruction, made of entirely new forms not seen before, morphed as a new generation of parts created and linked to bring never-before-seen shapes and details.

So watch closely at not only what is being deconstructed now but what is sticking. These experiments and embraced changes in our personal architecture will be the foundation for what the next generation will make just as the Gibson girl hinted at what the flapper was to be a century before. We knew in the very early years of the 20th century that the hallmark was simple and about ease, but it was only as it arrived that we saw the shapeless short sporty flash of the 20s was connected to a change in the mindset of the times in a way we could not anticipate. Then again, we have technology now…exponentially growing… and it has us trained to think and see differently.

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Saturday, September 12th 2015

9:22 PM

Our Anachronisms Of Style

T he Spring Summer 2016 collections are underway, and for those reviewing them it brings a sense of deja vu. Not only is it largely due to the second revisit of 70s fashion not seen with such fervor in the New York collections as since the 90s, but also as it comes during many events that concur with that era. that is, if it isn’t economic, it’s cultural mixed with political. But just as the political fervor gave way to more material commercialization that turned the hippie subculture into a mass-marketing dream, the 2.0 version of activism has found a backseat to the desire for more frivolous distractions.

Many designers providing their inspiration thus far have looked to the easy carefree vibe of L.A. and to more easygoing sentiments as the root of their creation. A deeper look shows the careful attention to the business aspect in the face of economic uncertainty. So, what works is what is familiar, and the comfortable familiarity of better times is what makes the retro inspiration a no-brainer. but not all collections are firmly rivited in the past and in future articles those aspects will be revisited ads they hold clues to what’s ahead.

The real story of the moment is this anachronistic aspect to the world of fashion. The subject matter is looking to the past while peppered with the tech of our current world, framed in our tech-savvy medium that has trumped the message and has taken some of the spotlight.

Social media has become necessary partners with the fashion world as the firm and entrenched way of connecting with the general public. While Burberry has long lead the charge, Hermes, long avoiding social media, is now finally on Twitter as it partners with Apple to bring a fashionable touch to its wearables. Marc Jacobs jumped on Twitter’s Periscope feature for its Resort collection months earlier, inspiring others to look into how to incorporate this into their arsenal of presentation and interaction. The bulk of fashion is now dominating Instagram. Some designer such as Stella McCartney and Calvin Klein now post photoshoots aka InstaShoots while others such as Moschino, Rodarte and J.W. Anderson prepare to do the same. DKNY is utilizing the hashtag feature to get more interactive while Misha Nonoo went a step further by hosting an InstaShow in lieu of a catwalk production. Yigal Azrouel posted portions of its collection on the Covet Fashion app, a highly interactive app that digitizes the garments, allowing users to play with and eventually buy online. Givenchy showed out of Paris as a gesture to recognize that fashion is no longer tied to a place but to the people and utilized social media to offer hundreds to attend via a lottery. Thus the world of fashion is embracing the future, if only in how it administers itself to the public. We, starved for what is new, have focused on that.

We cannot shake our current reality that our future is very much tied to the tech of the world we live in today. But while we may do so, we may long for familiar to comfort us from the uncertainty of the future that we cannot escape. And so, some collections let us know that we are not falling so closely with all that is retro. the future is inevitable, even if not entirely knowable. And the news for now is that it’s being livestreamed, shared and finding new ways to be ours.

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Monday, September 7th 2015

6:43 PM

Manifesting The Personal

A s we head closer to the unveiling of the Spring Summer 2016 collections, the fashion world at large has time to speculate about what will come, largely based on the combination of what it emerging versus what has been along with awareness of current sentiments emerging. The sensitivity of these factors is much what a designer atunes themselves to as they translate this into tangible expressions. The translation of mood into material is the domain of the artist, of which the successful designer has within, balanced by great business acumen because fashion is, at the bottom line, a business.

Among those pondering the direction of fashion is the fashion powerhouse of Vogue, who recently restructured their style archive, transforming it into Vogue Runway. Here, the article refereed to research done by fashion collective K-Hole (the ones who rebranded the resurgence of 90s utilitarian fashion-as-trend as “normcore”), suggested that fashion was moving towards an aura of magic, albeit the personal variety by indicating the growing cultural obsession with spiritual attunement towards manifestation of reality.

The examples were meant to provide support towards this acute observation (our spiritualism mirroring the 90s exploration post-economic stumble)  but actually provided a window towards what is occurring due to the evolution of various factors that our current marketing landscape has been crystallizing.

Our technological landscape has been pushing us towards personal customization with 3D printing leading the way as we create new platforms to propel individual manufacturing. This moves with our increased variety in our daily choices ranging from increased style options supported by the DIY movement to increased variety in our consumer goods and increased individualization in selection of a range of items as we introduce apps and algorithms to comb through the mass information now available to tailor what is available to our personal needs.

All this allows us to tap more into what we want and, in turn, supports learning more about who we are. The marketing drive towards authenticity and emotional connections in message delivery through storytelling have allowed us to explore vulnerability.

Now we struggle with transparency as our technology shows cracks via information leaks such as the Ashley Madison hacking scandal that has opened dialogue on what is personal and private as we’ve been increasingly sharing our lives and opinions on social media. Now, faced with the prospect of addressing what matters regarding what is private versus what is public, we find our willingness to let our guard down in the name of manifestation; you cannot get if you do not ask (in the spirit of this I ask for massive backing to expand now ;)  ). And so designers are opening up their hearts to share what matters, what is intimate, and what is close to their heart just as we are all exploring to do.

What this may mean, for fashion, in the authentic opening of the soul to provide individual choices in the hopes of securing business in the face of economic uncertainty, the likes not seen since the end of the 80s excess. Our fashion has already nodded to this over the last few seasons, with both the 80s and 90s mined for inspiration. Perhaps we have manifested this repeat unwittingly in the name of creativity, with the byproduct of pushing us towards the moment of unabashed introspection made public to turn our fate. If nothing else, we may have clothes that have meaning beyond the translations they already provide.

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Sunday, August 30th 2015

2:13 PM

Stealth Wealth Strategy

N obody is immune to the events that effect us on a global scale, especially when economics are the central focus. The recent jolt that impacted international markets have sent chills resulting in immediate speculation through various media channels beyond industry concerns, some of which are certain to impact aspects of design.

This can take on many directions. For one, it could mean the pulling back of creativity in favor of essentials for the general public who will react with conservative habits, much as what was seen in the 90s when the global credit bubble burst. Meanwhile, there’s an oversaturation of manufacturing efforts aimed at a small affluent percentile, much as what happened in the late 80s, contributing to profit dilution and serving to exacerbate the issues that impact more broadly.This is what fueled normcore design aesthetics in periods of austerity in the 70s, early 90s and, more recently, in our earlier decade.

Another aspect is the shift of cultural appeasement. With China looked at as a culture of great economic potential, designers sought to explore how to add to their collections to appease that market much as was done in the 80s for the Japanese when they were a desirable market due to their unprecedented affluence. As their wealth dropped, designers no longer felt the need to appease, and designs reflected this. With this new economic outlook, we may look towards either a new source to appeal to or, more likely, find a broader aesthetic that is more international and general.

A contrary (and more likely) expression may be the economic divide mirrored in collections, with modesty for the public and austentation for the couture and higher aspects of pret-a-porter, supporting a divided class distinction with fear motivating defensive dressing. here, the fear of being poor drives the public to do all it can to avoid looking that way, even if it means alternate modes of fashion participation. That is where luxury consignment has been on the upswing, while current business models such as those introduced by Scandanavian company Fillipa K go further by allowing others to rent high fashion.

No surprise that the 80s cannot leave our grasp. Not only does it represent a spirit of creativity in the face of technology that current designers of 20th century origin find favor in, but also the era represents the exhaustion of compassion in favor of self-centered support as a survival mechanism. Our technology has created a false sense of community while supporting narcissism, i.e. our selfie culture and self-promotion on social media, and allowing us to be together being happily alone. Our fears drive us to fit in, and tech lends us the tools to do it more stealthily.

So much happening, who can’t wait for what the upcoming collections will bring? And some new questions will be these: which designers will do last-minute tweaks in the face of current economics to gain the advantage in order to thrive? And how will these aspects tie into our direction towards a new identity that becomes our 21st century costume? Both are good questions that we will eventually learn the answers to as the Spring Summer 2016 collections unfold in the coming weeks.

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Monday, August 24th 2015

7:11 PM

Destination Androgyny

I n fashion right now, we are seeing the pendulum swing again towards the embrace of sexuality’s spectrum. With Caitlin Jenner the new reality darling to the stylings of menswear collections taking on a more creative and feminine approach and lines such as You Do You coming into our fold, fashion is back to repeat the exploration forged in past sexual revolutions before.

Of note is the progressive coupling that accompanies each move that seeks to inform and expand the male while empowering the female. In effect, to bring us towards true equality. This concept is something we attribute as modern, as forward thinking.

Our science fiction finds this androgyny to be the personal expression of liberation via empowerment, in tandem with periods where turbulence opens the gateway towards unabashed attempts of freedom exploration, such as those experienced in the 20s, 60s 80s and 90s. we carry the torch forward, and, despite whatever is pessimistic in the world, seek now to look ahead. We found our selves by looking past fear. We’ll see how far fashion tries to take us versus how far the public wants to go.

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Monday, August 17th 2015

9:18 PM

Latin ReFever

F ashion gets its cues from multiple sources now. Our technology illustrates this as tracking algorithms become not only more sophisticated but also more commonplace.

Among the many influences this blog past mentioned included the influence of Cuba’s normalization of relations with the USA. Alone, this may provide an aspect that can blend with other influences competing for relevance in our cultural dialogue. But some parts of the dialogue gain more prominence when other components serve to magnify the likelihood of presence as influence.

The political activity in the USA is among the more closely observed activities worth paying attention to, for the results matter on a global scale. Sometimes, the issues and demographics that relate to such issues can be of note with regards to trend influence.

In the 90s, the presidential campaigns and economic scholars took notice of the growing Latin demographic within the USA…and subsequently globally. The recognition of the purchase power of this demographic translated into a trend influence that merged entertainment with fashion and saw the more cliched aspects manifest in design. The last time Latin culture got its due was during the 70s, which the 90s mined for inspiration, so the trend found strength amidst the retro revival.

With the 70s & 90s returning (again) in fashion, we have Republican candidate hopeful and outspoken billionaire Donald Trump inadvertently bringing attention to the Latin community via comments on immigration that negatively inspired the Latin community to rise up. This awakening of the sleeping giant and the underestimated power of this demographic during what is anticipated to be a crucial and hotly contested candidacy only adds to the power of the Latin influence in coming collections.

The community not only finds itself under scrutiny over a sensitive political topic. It works in conjunction with the already notable focus in Cuba coupled with more recent economic attention due to dollar devaluation in South America; finding luxury goods at a bargain which will only further drive international attention as the luxury class heads to where their dollar finds better bag for their buck. This mass travel is sure to spur on attention to a part of the world already getting attention for the upcoming Olympics.

How does this translate? It already has, and now we wait to see how much further as the Spring Summer collections edge closer to unveiling next month to see to what degree the design community captures what the world already is focusing on.

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Sunday, August 9th 2015

3:40 PM

Hot Stuff

T his blog enjoys sharing observations regarding how the world becomes translated into something as seemingly innocuous as a garment. The influences are numerous largely due to the volume of information we now have a our disposal, a fact repeatedly shared in articles from time to time if for no other purpose than to remind you of the process. Designers intuit the influences that seem relevant, with the leading creatives balancing between the familiar and the new to show us the way. It is a delicate balancing act that cultivates the right level of trust with prescience that all good artists possess, communicating effectively via the mastery of their chosen media.

Part of this astuteness is being aware of one’s environment. As we find ourselves deep in 80s/90s retreads, the socio-economic conditions centering around oil amidst the climate of united protest lean also into 70s territory.

The 90s found a new generation that had not experienced the 70s first-hand and was fascinated by the freedom of that era that was being explored thanks to the sexuality exploration the 80s brought forth as a trend. At this time, much of the vintage clothes had disappeared as the 80s purged the landscape of clothes from that era as irrelevant. This is coupled with renewed interest in body consciousness plus rebellion from years of oversize fashion. Add the scarcity of 70s cuts and the market was ready to revisit similar cuts and fits without concern of vintage impeding on profits while satisfying the collection of conditions that welcomed this retro revisit.

This is further enhanced as we find science closer to cures for some of the more virulent diseases as well as increasing control of a major killer that connects with our carnal activities. The AIDS epidemic brought an end to the era of free love, but as we get closer to reigning it in, the barriers to sexual exploration loosen much in the way they were in the 70s. Current behaviours are bordering on the almost dangerous as we get cocky about the assurances our advances are promising. And, the sexiness the 70s and 90s embraced may find its way back as we see more advancements close a chapter on what held back our sexual exploration with a wardrobe to match.

Another aspect invited the 70s return. The realism we now embrace, further celebrated in social media (and noticed recently by is another aspect the 70s was known for, seeking to be more natural as the current generation looked for authenticity that was eschewed by the generation before. 

All this brings us to the renewed aesthetic that competes with its opposite, the sweeping, architectural drama that is also enjoying its place in fashion. And as our information age support those influences responsible, the dynamics of multiple looks and trends is well-reflected in our wardrobes as it is in fashion publications and the world that we find online.

Yet it is that vast world at our fingertips that is nebulous and complex that drives us to simpler times, and fashion reflecting this perception continues, offering what we desire on dichotomous fronts. Ironic that, as we ask for technology to make our lives easier, we find ourselves reliving the past to reclaim what our creations cannot yet provide: satisfying simplicity. Notice the word “yet”? I thought so.

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Tuesday, August 4th 2015

6:02 PM

Seamlessly Yours

T he textile revolution continues to shape our 21st century direction. Along with new innovations with nanotechnology are new compounds via intricate examination of molecular properties that were, before now, impossible. But with the increased power that our computers hold, we can find solutions to complexities that unleash untold variety for us to indulge in.

Fashion is not afraid of the new when it comes to materials and techniques; there are a steady stream of vanguards that bring in new techniques and textiles to move us forward. Our focus is on what will shape our coming century.

For decades we have toyed with the concept of seamless garments, such as when seamless pantyhose was made in the mid-60s or when the first seamless technology for knitwear was patented in the early 80s. We have long dreamed of relinquishing the seams to liberate us from the subtle bulk seams give.

In 1999, Issey Miyake, already known for innovation in design and textiles, decided to depart for his label to focus on textile creation, leaving with a subtle yet powerful creation called A-POC i.e. a piece of cloth. This was a tube where the wearer could cut out their garment and customize it. What made it genius was that the resulting garment was seamless. His concept was an incredible foreshadowing of what was to come, but only years later after technology had time to catch up. The further revelation was that this was in creation and experimentation back in the mid-90s, demonstrating the visionary capacity this master had to merge seamless technology with the personal applications that a DIY culture such as what we’ve had for a while now would desire.

Cue to our decade as seamless garment technology has grown up. While commercial manufacturers are playing with the concept (particularly in Italy), it has been more limited to manufacturers. However, one company called OpenKnit created a knitting machine last fall that could produce seamless garments in an hour…without any knowledge of pattern-making, cutting or even sewing. The democratization of seamless garment creation got personal.

This May, another company called Electroloom started a Crowdfunding campaign for a 3D printer that can spin seamless garments, again for personal use at home.

Chanel has jumped on the bandwagon by adding seamless garments to their most recent couture show, the Fall Winter 2015 collection to bring the Chanel aesthetic into the 21st century. When a fashion powerhouse embraces an idea, you know the concept will reverberate from aspirations into mainstream.

And so, between the exclusivity that brings attention and the viability unleashed in existing as well as newly released technology, we can see the newest piece of the puzzle regarding how fashion is shaping to be for the coming century. And this shaping looks to be dependent on the way we mold, craft and print rather than cut our proverbial cloth.

Categories: Uncategorized

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