These high-tech clothes make you money by selling your data
LOOMIA's connect fabric brings tech functions to fashion and sells your data to the highest-bidding brand
LOOMIA wants to give your clothes an invisible high-tech makeover. The Brooklyn-based startup has developed a material that, when connected to sensors, can emit light from your jacket or heat up your boots in the winter.
The electronic layer is similar to nylon and can be sewn into garments as seamlessly as a care tag. So far, it has been used in prototypes for household brands including Calvin Klein and The North Face.
“The electronic layering is essentially a drapable, crease-able, stretchable circuit board,” explains Madison Maxey, the founder and chief technology officer of smart-textile firm LOOMIA. Before starting LOOMIA, Maxey was a master seamstress at a French tailor. In 2013, aged 25, she won a Thiel fellowship to pursue advancements in fashion and textiles, and founded her own studio, The Crated. It was a year later, when she was made artist in residence for software company Autodesk, that she began to experiment with conductive ink.
Conductive ink connects circuits without the need for wiring. Until Maxey’s development, most ink solutions were rigid, making it difficult to attach a circuit directly into clothes – although possible, it would make the fabric heavy and clunky. Maxey invented a metal compound formula with the consistency of Spandex, which became the basis for her electronic layering. By adding a resistive heater to the circuit, she was able to build a self-heating fabric, connected to a slim, tag-like battery to keep it charged for two years. Maxey rebranded The Crated to LOOMIA in 2016 and hired long-time friend Janett Liriano as CEO.
The pair soon realised that electronic layering could do more than just react to the environment; it could also be used to gather data. “There probably isn’t a better way to track your motion than by using your clothes,” says Liriano. But the company wasn’t interested in developing a Fitbit-style wearable, and the security and privacy issues around storing personal data made Maxey and Liriano uncomfortable.