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June 30, 2020

Meet the designers bringing the clothes of the future into your wardrobe

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The Innovation team at Instinctif harness the best of the future to deliver market-leading ideas in the present. The team’s specialism spans digital strategy and marketing, data & analytics, and strategic brand. This fortnightly update shares top tips to help you foster creative and challenge the status quo and summarises the news that matters.

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We’re always on the look-out for brands who are reinventing the way we live, so Vollebak‘s mission to bring us the clothes from the future immediately captured our imagination.

The science and technology-led clothing brand has created the world’s first Graphene Jacket using the only material in the world with a Nobel Prize, released 100 Year clothing designed to outlive its owners, a Plant and Algae T Shirt grown in forests and bioreactors that turns into worm food, and a Black Squid Jacket which mimics the adaptive camouflage of the squid by reflecting every colour in the visible spectrum.

CEO and company co-founder Steve Tidball took time out of his busy diary to talk to us about where the sartorial future lies, how Heston Blumenthal could have inspired the coat you wear  – and why we’re on the cusp of a clothing revolution.
1. Hi, Steve. Let’s start at the beginning – why did you start Vollebak?

Before Vollebak, my brother Nick and I had no experience in the clothing industry at all, but had worked together in advertising for 15 years. We ended our advertising career working on Adidas and Airbnb, which were brands we believed in, but by then we just weren’t interested in doing TV ads. We wanted to continue creating stuff people would care about and tell their friends they’d seen, so after that, creating our own brand felt like the natural next step for us.

We came up with the idea for Vollebak while taking part in some of the toughest races in the world. Running across a desert for 24 hours and through the Amazon jungle made us realise that the kit that was out there wasn’t as progressive or as smart as you were made to believe, and we decided to change this.

2. Where do you get your inspiration from?
When we’re coming up with new ideas we’re often inspired by the astonishing survival mechanisms found in the natural world. Our Blue Morpho Jacket recreated one of nature’s most brilliant solutions to high visibility – the iridescent wings of the Blue Morpho butterfly. And the surface of our Solar Charged Jacket can be charged by the sun to glow in the dark like a firefly.

But we’re also inspired by the discovery of innovative materials, which is why we created the world’s first Graphene Jacket using the only material in the world with a Nobel Prize.

3. What do you think will be a key focus for innovation in the next years?

Ultimately we’re focused on the future of clothing over the next century, and intelligent clothing is one of our long-term ambitions. Over the next 10 to 10,000 years clothing has the potential to help us become stronger and faster and even live longer. But everything from exoskeletons to integrated monitoring and intelligence will require power distribution. So that’s why we’ve started to make clothing out of naturally conductive materials now.

Most recently, we launched our Full Metal Jacket which is the first commercial jacket to be built from mostly copper, and with over 11 kilometres of copper in every jacket, it’s pioneering the future of intelligent clothing.

4. Who do you look to as leading the way in innovation?

We’ve always taken the view that in every industry there’s someone building the future  – Tesla in cars, SpaceX in space travel, Apple in tech. In clothing, our aim is for it to be Vollebak. A lot of the ways we operate make us more like a technology brand than a clothing brand, but we’re also influenced by leaders in fields outside of clothing and tech.

Our ideas can come from influential artists, designers, and even from food. Heston Blumenthal, Ferren Adria, Olafur Eliasson have all been creating the kind of ideas we’re interested in. While a lot of their work is highly technical and difficult to accomplish, the end result is spectacularly single minded, multi-sensory, and thought provoking. To be able to do that with clothing is where we want to be.

5. What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

One of the most important lessons we’ve learned over the last couple of years is that it’s ok for a handful of people in a room to try and take on industry giants. All you need to do is remember that once upon a time those industry giants were also just a handful of people in a room.

6. What’s next for the brand?

We’re going to continue to make gear that feels like you’re buying it from the future, because the future of clothing is going to arrive faster than anyone imagines.

Right now we are on the cusp of a revolution. Historically clothes have been used to keep people warm, dry, cool and alive – they are essentially tools to help us maintain stasis. But over the next 50 to 50,000 years clothes are going to be used to increase the plasticity of human life. Rapid advances in material technology, biotech, sports science, space travel, and the understanding of human psychology are combining to create the perfect conditions for this revolution. Our plan is to be the ones helping drive this forward.

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The rise of COVID-19 has prompted many to ask what the future holds for the economy, people’s livelihoods and society at large.

To give us some insights-led answers, LinkedIn is using its own user data to launch a Recovery Tracker, tracking the waxing and waning situation met by both businesses and individuals in the work market.

With its 690 million members worldwide and more than 160 million members in the United States, the Recovery Tracker introduces new measures such as the LinkedIn Labor Stress Index, which tracks the number of members who are out of work, actively seeking new jobs or those who are seeking opportunities.

It combines ‘Public Indicators’ (e.g. the number of new Coronavirus cases) alongside LinkedIn’s own ‘Economic Indicators’ (e.g. the number of small business job postings) to draw a comprehensive overview of how the situation has evolved – and continues to evolve – during the pandemic.

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This week’s tip comes from Junior Account Manager, Eoin McGrath.

Technology has crept into every corner of how we live. Can it now redesign where we live?

I’ve been fascinated this week by IKEA’s newly launched platform, called Everyday Experiments with its external research lab, SPACE10. It’s a series of digital experiments designed to help users think about their future space in a different way – whether that’s the home, or the office (which, currently is one and the same, for most of us).

One example is Extreme Measures, a speculative design prototype that uses LiDAR to help you visualise and measure the space in your home by filling nooks and crannies with inflatable elephants.

Its introduction may make interior designers of all of us. Watch more here.

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