In researching the Pecha Kucha presentation format for next week’s National Bike Summit I came across this presentation by a woman in Toronto who is also interested in wearable technology, fashion and thought to share it. She needs a little practice on her spoken presentation to sound more comfortable – but it’s exciting to see the subject matter spreading and developing.

Ashley Lewis’ presentation – http://www.pechakucha.org/presentations/smarty-pants

As a designer manufacturing apparel and accessories in America, I can testify to the problems of trying to manufacture domestically. Yes, it’s expensive – mostly because we have minimum wage laws and factories producing in cities like NYC and LA need to pay significantly more than that to keep their workforce. But now that the market is starting to value domestically produced goods and companies are getting smarter about how to do it – what’s the hold up?

Where manufacturing still does exist, it’s extremely difficult to get people to show up to fill open sewing jobs – as recently profiled in the NYT article, “A Wave of Sewing Jobs as Orders Pile Up at U.S. Factories.”

“The sad truth is, we put ads in the paper and not many people show up,” said Mike Miller. But consider the recent increase in enrollment in fashion schools across the country. The NY Post recently profiled the spike in new enrollment at fashion schools (as well as design & architecture). Not everyone can run their own empire, so will these students also become the new generation of craftspeople making ‘made in the usa’ possible again?

My biggest problem in sourcing apparel (and accessory) manufacturing, beyond cost, is the lack of technical capabilities. Resources exist to cut and sew older traditional materials like woven cotton, basic stretched material. Simple materials, patterns – not the technical materials I use in my sport/performance oriented designs that are often too complex (read: time consuming to produce all those little “extras” like vents, zippers, pockets). But that’s what fashion school is for, right? We should be taking a realistic look at learning to take pride in knowing how things are made.

As sourcing costs abroad get more expensive, domestic manufacturing is a growing trend. Several large projects have begun appearing in NYC to bring back an almost lost industry of production back. Ultimately it is my feeling that a shift in perception has to happen: we can’t all be rock stars. We should appreciate and value the time and craft that is required to produce things: by paying more and buying less, but also by making manufacturing an esteemed part of the American economy. Regardless of where a product is created, it’s the time and skill that makes it something worthwhile. Foreign workers deserve that respect as well. But if we want to strengthen the American economy, manufacturing is a big part of that. And by seeing manufacturing jobs as a worthwhile career path we can develop and innovate our communities as well as product design.

 

a GUEST POST:

Bingo for Bicycle Enthusiasts
From Bicycle Bingo Nights to Bicycle Bingo Runs

According to the National Survey of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Attitudes and Behaviors, there are approximately 57 million people in the world that rode a bicycle at least once during the summer of 2002. There are many reasons why people ride a bicycle – as a form of transportation or as part of their daily workout. But how can you make this activity more fun? The answer is bingo.

Bingo is a game that is widely played all over the world – whether online or though bingo halls. As more bingo companies and bingo sites emerge, the competition gets more diverse. Some bingo rooms target the female majority of bingo players while pop icon games like Betfair Bingo“Deal or No Deal” target a specific age bracket, free of gender specifics. There are other companies who create different bingo themes to attract more players like Late Night Bingo and Cosmic Bingo.

Riding the popularity of bingo, there are some bicycle clubs that host a bicycle bingo run. Just a few months ago, the Charlotte Sports Cycling hosted a Big Bingo Bicycle Ride where participants got to choose between a 15-mile route or 30-mile route. After finishing the route, the cyclists enjoyed a night of bingo games, live music, and great food at the Icehouse.

Another bingo game that is creating a buzz in Oakland, California is the Bicycle Bingo Night. This monthly event is held at Actual Café and gathers both bingo and bicycle enthusiasts as well as people who just want to try something new. The spotlight of the night was the bingo cage that’s powered by a bicycle created by Monkey Likes Shiny. Volunteers were asked to pedal the bicycle to mix the bingo balls inside the cage. According to café owner Sal Bednarz, Bicycle Bingo is about giving back as well. In fact, the donations that players make for the bingo cards plus 10% of the café’s earnings during the event go to one of their four charities.

Combining two popular recreations, such as bicycle and bingo, can benefit not only the enthusiasts, but other people as well. What do you think will be the next trend in bicycle and bingo?

+reprinted from the original ARTCRANK interview.

 

Nona Varnado and Orange 20 Bring Bikes and Art Together

 

A quick look at Nona Varnado’s adventures in life to date feels a little bit like channel surfing: A degree in Art from Cooper Union. A job on Wall Street. Her own cycling fashion label. And a cross-country move to Los Angeles to launch a new gallery space at the city’s top bike shop. Oh, and she’s almost single handedly responsible for bringing ARTCRANK to L.A. for our inaugural show, which kicks off on Saturday, December 8. She took a break from manic pre-show preparations to talk to us about where she’s been so far, and what’s next.

Which did you fall in love with first — bikes or fashion?

Definitely bikes. More than 10 years later I realize I had a very typical experience: I was an adult that had fallen out of love with the city I lived in. A loaner bike on Transportation Alternative’s 5 Boro Bike Tour got me excited enough to find club rides, then a cyclocross race, then street racing, then touring. Commuting by bike naturally replaced the misery of a crowded subway, a good messenger bag made shopping a non-issue.

At the time I was working professional jobs in midtown Manhattan and would faithfully ride in to work from Brooklyn – about 6 miles away with a bridge and heavy traffic. So I’d need to hide from all of my co-workers in a bathroom on another floor to change into appropriate work clothes: slacks, a dress shirt and usually small heels. Dressing then was more of a chore than anything else. I had a closet of carefully curated athletic clothes, bike racing or music shirts I loved and another set of work clothes that probably looked pretty awful. I just didn’t really like the “fashion” that I saw available, couldn’t afford what I did like or never imagined that I’d go to an event that would make a floor length gown a reasonable purchase.

What led you to bring the two together in your work?

At that point I was doing what I think a lot of women now are: looking at functional apparel brands to see if there isn’t one piece – a pair of pants, a shirt or jacket – that’s pretty. Something that will do the job: staying warm, wicking sweat, fitting appropriately, comfortable athletic seams, maybe adding some reflective materials for safety; but also look like something you would want to wear or even be excited to wear!

Both of us were at Interbike this year. What did you see that got you excited about where the bike industry is going? 

Industry is a big thing. I’ve been more excited in years past seeing products that I think were more innovative, only to be disappointed that they haven’t been widely adopted, but Interbike was twice as big with an astounding number of new vendors — even as certain big names stay home because they simply don’t need to advertise. And the sheer number of products is astounding. Niche industries are starting to pop-up. People are making accessories for bikes, accessories for people who like bikes, things that are only somewhat bike related. That’s a pretty powerful way of visualizing the growth of cycling in mainstream America.

So where do you think there are unmet needs, or things that need to change?

After 10+ years of being involved in the bike industry in some way, it’s a complicated question. This is well known in the industry: The lack of women and the lack of professional respect shown to us. It’s still a boy’s club with enough history behind it that change is a slow and arduous battle that women have to deal with until there’s a sea change. This last year I saw SpokesWomen, a small ladies cocktail networking party, become an recognized official event with the full encouragement of the show management and coordinated alongside the more established Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC).

Beyond that, cities can’t build bicycling infrastructure until greater numbers of cyclists are already on the road and most people don’t want to ride on roads without those safety measures. In the same way there is a much bigger need to find ways to connect with people about cycling, and the best way to do that is still the local bike shop: From becoming welcoming neighborhood resources with the ability to learn how to fix your own bike, to having dressing rooms so women can try on cycling apparel and acting as a helping hand in getting people on bikes and aware of cycling culture and advocacy. It all comes down to the local bike shop. No matter how many fancy products are created – if people don’t see them, try them out and get to talk to someone friendly about why these things are great – it’s all a moot point.

What spurred you to move from New York to Los Angeles?

With my apparel brand, I’ve come to understand how critical local retail is. It’s an experience that even the greatest website can’t get close to. Creating a retail environment you can really get to know people, understand their needs and desires while being able to educate at a level that’s going to make a difference. From a business perspective: selling clothes at bike shops to women isn’t going to happen. And in traditional fashion retail the functionality and message is totally lost. As I went on tour to various cities doing trunk shows; I realized that my brand needed a physical location, but ask that there’s a huge missing piece in the industry to display innovative products, launch new projects, act as an inspiration though a gallery like environment – something that could be the holy grail of cycling: reaching new people who are not yet in love with bicycles. Orange 20′s new bike gallery, called Red#5 Yellow#7, is exactly that.

A year ago I came to LA out of curiosity and had an experience that seems more like a novel than real life: I immediately met a great DJ and cycling advocate named Patrick Miller, (through friends on Facebook!) who took me on an epic tour of the entire city from a cyclists perspective. I got the historical background, cultural highlights and became very inspired by the rapid progress cycling the city is making thanks to a local government that’s pretty cooperative. As we set out he told me the absolute first place we had to go was Orange 20 Bikes, in LA’s Bicycle District. I was familiar with that name because I had met the owner, TJ Flexer, at interbike several years ago when he was first starting the shop. It’s a really small world, sometimes. TJ and I immediately began talking about how to save the world through bicycle retail. A little while later a new space next door to Orange 20 opened up and we saw an opportunity to unite our ideas and resources into something new. We’ve been renovating the space for a while, working on identity and a schedule of show concepts.

Tell us more about Red#5 Yellow#7…

Red#5 Yellow#7 is Orange 20′s project space. It’s part bike gallery, part pop-up shop. Red#5 Yellow#7 is huge, because the cycling community is passionate, creative and composed of people who are about action! I see it as a solution to some of the biggest problems in cycling: new lifestyle products are almost impossible to sell in a traditional bike shop, while at the same time people who don’t bike or aren’t part of the ‘cult’ can be introduced to the beauty, history and design inspired by the bicycle. Red#5 Yellow#7 can be anything: it can be an educational museum, a launchpad for the most interesting new products, a fine art gallery with a singular obsession and a resource for connecting people to new ideas. We’re super excited about ARTCRANK Los Angeles, not only because it’s a fantastic time and way to discover local artists, but in helping us reach out to the art and design community.

I’m thrilled to be able to put together shows at Red#5 Yellow#7 that show the most innovative women’s cycling products, cargo bikes and art. We’re not really selling anything so we’re free to display things for aesthetic or educational reasons. It’s so hard to pay rent and stay afloat as a business that you never get the opportunity to just showcase something because it’s wonderful. We believe that by creating a space that’s as entertaining as a new show at a modern art museum, that we’ll be able to advance cycling in ways the shop can’t.

 

For those who haven’t been there, describe Orange 20 Bikes. 

Orange 20 is a special place. It was in a tiny one room building next door to the current shop for the first three years. The newer location is not only several times larger, it’s like candy land. There are toe clips that even industry veterans have never seen, lust-worthy specialty components, a library of the best in category bags and bike shoes. They specialize in steel bikes and American made whenever possible. Yet the focus is on “the everyday rider” and that often means the person who is getting their first bike, or a durable city commuter, which is often seen as less sexy.

The mechanics in the back are heavy hitters; specialists in mountain, road, track, kids bikes. Most people who work at Orange 20 have been volunteers with the Bike Kitchen or group ride leaders who are extremely passionate about making cycling a positive and ultimately world changing experience. It’s also a homegrown business that’s almost seven years old, so there’s been changes, new people, but the result is a fire tested group of people who really care about people and bikes. It’s also an extremely creative environment: our lead mechanic is the famous Cache responsible for the amazing cicLAvia ‘chicken’ murals all over LA, which can also be seen outside the shop on Heliotrope. Almost everyone on staff is an artist of some kind —cartoonist, painter, graphic designer, fashion designer, painter. You can see it in the space: the way the walls are painted, how the products are arranged.

New York and Los Angeles are the two biggest cities in the U.S. Until recently, neither had a reputation for being especially bike-friendly. But both cities are making substantial investments in cycling infrastructure to address both traffic congestion and quality of life.

How would you compare and contrast the changes you saw in New York with what you’ve seen thus far in Los Angeles?

In many ways, LA is like NYC was 10+ years ago. There’s a lot of change happening, but the streets in NYC are relatively tiny, particularly with the density of people and buildings. Los Angeles some times feels like a giant freeway with some buildings here and there. Drivers rule the streets in a way that’s assumed from an early age: that you absolutely have to have a car to get anywhere, that only losers walk or take public transportation, all the ways that people learn to identify with their cars and fear traffic.

But the amount of pavement here is huge! So it’s a really good thing that Californians are famous for being progressive and sporty, because it’s a more complicated social and tactical problem to solve. The good thing is that there’s also a long history of taking lessons learned in NYC and applying the “best case scenario” that rapidly speeds up the trial and error stage and allows locals to develop and refine how they approach things. I’m really here to help facilitate that through Orange 20′s project space Red#5 Yellow#7, but also through local advocacy and community work.

What’s the biggest misperception or flawed stereotype about cycling in Los Angeles?

That it’s impossible. For the last cicLAvia I personally transported 650+ pounds of free oranges that we gave away at our booth in Mariachi Plaza, which is halfway across the city from the shop, on a bike with a cargo trailer that in total retails for less than $1,000. It took two trips and I worked up a good appetite. But it was a great way to physically show that bicycling for transportation in LA is not only possible, it’s affordable and way more fun than sitting in traffic. I’ve also learned that people generally aren’t yet aware that a bike should cost more than $100 and that a bicycle is an investment that requires other stuff like locks, lights and a helmet, in the same way that a car is. People spend obscene amounts on cars here but balk at the idea of what a bike costs.

Like many businesses, bike shops have been losing customers to online retailers. Why do you think neighborhood bike shops are still important?

I feel incredibly lucky to be friends with some of the most brilliant individuals in bicycling retail and across the board you see some key lessons. The local bike shop has to be all the things you can’t get online: Trusted advice on something that isn’t found without experience and dedication, access to unique and superior products, the ability to physically interact with the items you’ll be trusting your life to. Sadly, many people don’t value that enough and are happier to buy something super cheap and potentially dangerous online. It’s a modern addiction to want more at impossibly low internet only prices and it’s not just bicycle shops that have that problem.

How do you think the neighborhood bike shop model needs to change to stay relevant and start to thrive again?

I think the absolute key to survival is the local cycling culture. Culture is incredibly powerful and it can be created by having super hot custom branded products or providing workshops, group rides and mentorship. You can probably survive being really cool or being really well intentioned, but it’s about creating a unique balance that is a reflection of what your local community needs. I’d point to 718 Cyclery and Red Lantern Bicycles in Brooklyn as shops who are defining what that means in NYC.

Nurturing the growth of cycling by being the greatest champions of developing new riders, making women feel comfortable and pretty riding bikes, showing people how to be knowledgeable and have fun. There’s often a big gap in bike shops between the dudes who just want to have fun and the guys who try really hard but don’t step back enough to innovate.

If bike shops ran more like dot-coms, there’d be a lot more to talk about. I’d like to see that level of entrepreneurial seriousness – but a big part of that is money. No one bank rolls a bike shop expecting to get fabulously wealthy, but consequentially shops can’t afford to pay professional wages or have the resources to dream big. When I say big I mean projects that could rapidly change the face of cycling in years, rather than decades. Right now bike share is the closest anyone has come to that. It’s depressing to me to see national reports that are deemed hugely optimistic to say that 5% of urban transportation trips will be by bike by… 2030. That doesn’t mean people are working hard or lack for brilliance, but I’d love it if the cycling industry could reclaim Los Angeles the way the auto industry once did.

ARTCRANK was born out of a love for bikes and art, and creative people in general seem to have a deep-seated affinity for bicycles. What do you think is behind that?

After spending a ridiculous number of hours putting together my paper bike piece for the show, I might be a little biased. But I think that bicycles have such intensely beautiful shapes — perfect wheels, straight lines and dynamic curves. They are in a way an absolute triumph of human engineering balancing the complexity of industry by creating these specialized mechanical parts, yet so perfectly simple. Because they connect with our bodies, we can form emotional attachments to our experience with them. So really, they assault all of our senses with their wonderfulness. Then, there’s the fact that they’re shape shifters. The elegant and lust worthy objects of beauty that I adore don’t get a second glance from the mountain bikers at the shop who have fits of joy looking at the latest 29er with alien spaceship-looking suspension.

Other than ARTCRANK LAX, what upcoming events and happenings are you excited about?

The following Friday, December 15, we’re participating in a holiday party with a few other galleries and businesses on Melrose. Which is to say that there is suddenly something of a gallery district happening here! I’m also excited about bringing Bike Trains to LA and other cities in cooperation with my friends who just launched Bikeapolis.us as an intermediary to advocates and organizations in California. On a personal level I’m finally getting to the point of being able to design and relaunch a collection of lifestyle cycling apparel that integrates all the lessons I’ve learned from bike retail, advocacy and experience into something that will hopefully resonate with people.

 

ARTCRANK Los Angeles Details

Opening Night Party: Saturday, December 8 – 5:00pm – 11:00pm

Orange 20 Bikes
4351 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA

Show continues through Monday, December 17 at Orange 20

Original, limited edition prints by 30 local artists – all sold for $40
Custom pint glasses and beer specials by Widmer Brothers Brewing to benefit L.A. Streetsblog
Neenah Paper
will donate proceeds from the ARTCRANK LAX show poster to L.A. Streetsblog
Extra bike parking and tasty snacks, courtesy of Clif Bar
Debut of a new Neenah Paper Paper Bike Sculpture by Nona Varnado

Press Release – New York, NY 
Hey #BikeLA: we’ve got some big news. Nona Varnado, known for her line of women’s cycling specific apparel, has accepted a position with Orange 20 Bikes in Los Angeles, California. Her role with Orange 20 Bikes will be community outreach, development and sponsorship programs. An additional retail pop-up space bridging lifestyle, apparel, accessories and cycling is planned with more details to be announced.

NonaVarnado.com
The apparel line that can be seen at: NonaVarnado.com will go on hiatus during the transition. All new garments will be produced in Southern California or abroad as further product development is refined over the next six to twelve months. Larger production volumes and increased technical capabilities will benefit retailers, online sales and bring the line to a greater audience of female cyclists. A new lookbook and product offerings are scheduled for mid-2013.

From Nona:


“I’m bringing the energy and beauty of lifestyle city cycling to a new city! More than NYC, #BikeLA needs help to get participation happening for everyday riders. I would please ask that you extend your talent, experience and generosity in helping me crush car culture! There will definitely be times that I will need all of you to give a little advice, make something happen or just send goodwill out and that takes everyone working together. I hope you’ll continue to support me as I move my efforts to #BikeLA.”

99% of people who live on planet earth don’t realize how complicated and abstract the web of global systems are that ultimately deliver to them their clothes. Unless you’re shopping at a small retailer or online brand that deals exclusively in fair trade, organic and/or vertically integrated manufacturing, that t-shirt has already seen more of the world than you’re likely to throughout the course of your life.

It starts with raw materials: natural ones like cotton/wool/hemp and chemical compounds for synthetics: polyesters, rayon, lycra, etc.

There’s a whole lot of work that happens harvesting, cleaning and transporting the materials, but the next critical step is spinning. That’s right, it’s not magic, fibers still have to be spun into threads before fabrics, trim or anything more complicated than a single strand can be made. They must do a lot of delicate sorting work (sometimes automated, sometimes by hand) to keep the best fibers together and sort the other qualities. In America, these mills generally focus on American grown cotton or virgin (first life cycle) polyesters. In a place like India, the range is far greater and there’s more nuance in sometimes being able to harvest unusual fibers in labor intensive (environmentally better) ways. Both American and Indian mills are struggling for survival and seem to be coming up with the same solution: vertically integrated manufacturing. Spinning mills have to buy from suppliers and then sell to other mills up the supply chain who create knit or woven fabric.

From the Economic Times of India:

A comparative analysis of the financial performance of standalone spinning companies pitted against vertically integrated (healthy mix of fabrics and garment) textile companies showed that net profit of vertically integrated companies has grown at a CAGR of 35%, while standalone spinning companies have a CAGR of 28% in their net profits in the last five years.

This shows that a concentrated focus on the higher end of the value chain of the textile business is a lucrative strategy even in times of a slowdown in the business.

Vardhman Textiles is a case in point. In the last three years, the contribution of the fabrics segment to its total revenues has grown at a CAGR of 35%, while its revenue from the yarn segment has grown at a CAGR of 20%. This shows that the company is expanding its capacity in the fabrics segment.

Going ahead, an increasing focus on fabrics and garments would help spinning companies retain their margins. Garmenting and fabrics segments by their very nature of business demand less capital compared to the pure spinning business.

But why this reversal trend in moving away from the segmentation of labor and skill? Doesn’t everything work more efficiently if individual tasks are performed perfectly and in isolation to reduce complexity in order to perfect specific skills/process? Isn’t the key large scale? It’s funny to me that this reasonable, if completely outdated idea of economics and the human experience, is not yet completely debunked. Things relate to each other. One aspect informs another. Creativity happens when more than one thing is put next to another thing and the human mind synthesizes something new.

From the complete vertically manufactured American facilities that can do everything from spin yard, weave/knit fabric, dye/print, design/pattern, sample and manufacture large production runs (there are VERY, VERY few of these), to International companies like ZARA that limit manufacturing to the area between Spain-North Africa (so they can produce ‘relatively’ small runs and control inventory/quality without the large forecasting that happens when you manufacture something really far away, like Asia) to these small South Indian spinning mills beginning to produce their own fabrics. Scale is now more ‘context’ than ‘process.’

 

Spring Style Contest: Win A Free Classic Hipster

Until April 30, 2012 You can enter Momentum Magazine’s Spring Style Contest to win a free Nona Varnado Classic Denim Hipster lined with adorable nautical stripes.

It’s pretty, but what is a hipster? (yuk, yuk.) No, not that kind.
(more after the jump)

Hipsters are the modern american version of an ancient garment that goes back to the Japanese samurai who wore something called Haramaki. Haramaki are still around in snuggly knit fabrics and they even evolved in other places (like Europe) into kidney warmers, frequently in neoprene and worn by men. It wasn’t until relatively recently that it became a unisex or women’s garment, generally repurposed for pregnant women as a ‘belly warmer.’ When jeans started on the ultra-ultra low cut trend there was a huge new population of exposed muffin top and the bums of forward leaning cyclists and Nona thought an updated haramaki was a good idea.

The design that resulted was in between the classic “smaller than a skirt” tube design and something new. With stiff fabric, like denim, the shape could be made to compliment and define the figure, rather than just cover it. A small inner pocket was added and a longer rounded back (similar to cycling jackets) developed.

Practically it covers your middle parts when riding. In cold weather, it makes you warmer almost magically – even if you’re already wearing a jacket and pants. Mysterious! Well, not exactly. The japanese have all kinds of science about the benefits of keeping the core warm. And with a tiny extra pocket you might not need to lug a bag around, or stash your illegal substances in less refined places. Something for everyone.

In a world where comfort on a bike and fashion rarely co-exist for women who aren’t already runway models, the classic hipster is a figure flattering garment that’s great from size 4 – size 14. Love ‘em.

Full disclosure: I will be buying these and *loving* them. It’s like finding treasure at the bottom of a rainbow: it’s high tech, high performance, a gorgeous design, a truly innovative technique and based off the ancient art of knitting. re-posted from the original at: http://www.innovationintextiles.com/industry-talk/nike-flyknit-a-seamlessly-knitted-running-shoe/
 

The Nike Flyknit

Sportswear and sports shoe giant Nike Inc. has announced the launch of a revolutionary new running shoe which uses state-of-the-art integral knitting techniques to create a one piece upper which is virtually seamless. The Nike Flyknit upper is engineered for precision fit and aims to create the feeling of a second skin for runners. Oregon based Nike holds a number of patents which cover the knitting of one piece trainer uppers using both warp and weft knitting (flat and circular knitting technologies). In the case of warp and circular knitting, two dimensionally knitted shoe upper panels are knitted side by side and are later cut from the fabric and seamed before being attached to other shoe components.

From the images (below) released by Nike with its press release last night, flat knitting appears to be the technology used here. The upper appears to have completely closed selvedges and would have been released from the flat knitting machine in one ready to use piece. In what is an absolutely ingenious piece of knitting, the Nike Flyknit upper uses a complex combination of modern flat knitting techniques to create a two dimensional component with built in support which can easily be manipulated into a three dimensional upper for attachment to a sole unit.

Exploiting potential

The upper appears to use a combination of flechage (short row knitting), intarsia, jacquard, tuck stitches and stitch transfer techniques to impart shape and function, and employs a binding-off technique to close the selvedges. What appear to be braids are inserted to provide loops for lacing as well support at the sides of the shoe. The Flyknit is one of the best examples of commercial exploitation of the potential of flat knitting to date.According to Nike, the Flyknit revolutionizes running by rethinking shoe construction from the ground up, informed by athlete insights and employing a new proprietary technology.“Yarns and fabric variations are precisely engineered only where they are needed for a featherweight, formfitting and virtually seamless upper. With all the structure and support knitted in, the Nike Flyknit Racer’s upper and tongue weigh just 34 grams (1.2 ounces),” Nike said in a press release.The whole shoe weighs a mere 160g (5.6 ounces) for a size 9, 19% lighter than the Nike Zoom Streak 3, a shoe worn by first, second and third place athletes in the men’s marathon at the 2011 World Championships.Nike has also created an everyday running shoe, the Nike Flyknit Trainer+, which at 220 grams or 7.7 ounces aims to bring the weight and fit benefits of Nike Flyknit to runners of all levels.

Environmental benefit

An additional environmentally sustainable benefit to Nike Flyknit is that it reduces waste because the one-piece upper does not use the multiple materials and material cuts used in traditional sports footwear manufacture.“Nike Flyknit is truly a minimalist design with maximum return,” the company said, adding:“The inspiration for Nike Flyknit was born from the common runner feedback, craving a shoe with the qualities of a sock: a snug fit that goes virtually unnoticed to the wearer. But all the features that make a sock desirable have proven to make them a bad choice for a running upper. An inherently dynamic material like yarn generally has no structure or durability.”

Four year mission

Nike embarked on a four-year mission of micro-engineering static properties into pliable materials. It required teams of programmers, engineers and designers to create the proprietary technology needed to create the knitted upper.The next steps were to map out where the specific yarn and knitted structures were needed. Applying 40 years of knowledge from working with runners, Nike says it refined the precise placement of support, flexibility and breathability – all in one layer.“The result is precision engineering in its purest form, performance on display. Every element has a purpose: resulting in one of the lightest, best fitting running shoes NIKE has ever made,” Nike explained.

Top athletes to wear Flyknit Racer

Nike says the Flyknit Racer is the marathon shoe that the world’s best runners, including those from Kenya, Great Britain, Russia and the US will wear in this spring’s marathons and in London this summer.The Nike Flyknit and Nike Flyknit Trainer+ will be available for all runners this coming July 

Nike Flyknit from HiFi 3D on Vimeo.

Ok, so you have to be a designer or maker of apparel before you get *really* excited over this, but check out those pictures! A zipper with no sewing or teeth! I can only imagine that the next ‘level’ innovation is magical hand waving. Which would also be super cool and ultra lightweight.

YKK has introduced the Ultra Light Zipper at ISPO Munich 2012, in Germany.

Developed for lightweight sports and outdoor garments it does not have any ‘teeth’ and does not require sewing like every other zipper ever produced. The new zipper chain can be directly fixed on a wide breathable membrane fabric, reducing the weight of the garment. The Ultra Light Zipper is also highly flexible and packable.

According to YKK, the zipper will be available in a three layer membrane with a width of up to 180 mm, making it possible to use the Ultra Light Zipper as a close-end fastening solution, as a half front-zipper, pit ventilation and for pockets. Also as a magic wand. I mean whoa!

So far the zipper has been acquired by sporting apparel brands Mammut and Millet.

Though 2012 hasn’t resulted in an apocalypse (yet) there are some pretty cataclysmic things happening in the world of fashion retail. In general it’s the clash of two different trends: the rising cost of manufacture in China (hurting the industry’s rush to produce ever cheaper goods at an ever increasing speed) and the growing dominance of internet retailers (hurting brick and mortar shops). Between five major retailers alone, Sears, Abercrombie & Fitch, the Gap, PacSun and all Espirit North America stores, nearly 600 stores are projected to close over the next three years. That’s a lot of jobs, taxes and empty storefronts. For the consumer there seems to be a clear “next bridge” solution to keeping up with the demand for lots of cheap, pretty things: buying online with generous return policies, like Zappos.com.

But that’s a path with more consequences than progress.

Beyond hurting local communities, economies and livelihoods, it delays what really needs to happen: things need to get more expensive and more local if we want to move towards sustainability on a human and environmental basis. That’s not what anyone wants to hear. “Buy less and pay more!” sounds like a lot of people’s worst nightmares. But on the other end of it, higher pricing means consumers will be demanding more from their purchases. Was it responsibly sourced and ethically produced? Will it still be a durable, beautiful addition to my wardrobe in a few years’ time? It should be. The trick is not to buy more or produce more, but to so so more consciously. It’s been my great pleasure in the last year+ to see major international companies begin to embrace sustainability, and almost universally this is being enacted because of a personal sense of duty, but after the fact justified by financial savings, such as reduced water costs.

“One example is Roger Yeh, President of Everest Textile Co Limited who has pioneered the Everest Sustainability Moel (ESM) that now guides the development of the business. Yeh admits that although a few customers approached Everest regarding environmental issues, it was not until he has a personal realization about the risks to his business and the planet of unsustainable industry, that the idea for ESM took hold.” -EcoTextile News January 2012

Thankfully, there are a few things that should be kept in mind when moving ahead to a bold and positive future.

There are things that industry can do:

  1. Create 2 tiers of wholesale: 1 for online retailers and another for brick and mortar to reflect operational costs. It’s in everyone’s best interest for women to be able to see your products in a beautiful space, try them on with the help of a great salesperson and come away with the joy of a purchase that pays local taxes.
  2. Support certification and promotion of new technologies, fair trade and ecological innovations.
  3. Retool the design and production standards to reflect values of sustainability and durability.

There are things that consumers can do:

  1. Shop locally.
  2. Ask about how something is made or where it comes from.
  3. Pay attention and be strongly biased in favor of organics, innovation and fair trade.
  4. Be willing to pay more and shop less for garments that will last.
  5. Love what you buy.