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Lo! Here's a social distancing jacket

Published : Jul 2020

Somewhere in Delhi there’s a head at work frenziedly researching, designing and prototyping ‘stylish, comfortable and functional’ personal protection equipment to face the continuing onslaught of the coronavirus. Somesh Singh, a NIFT graduate and co-founder of Craft Village has applied for a patent for his market-ready Social Distancing Jacket and a Folding Face Shield—100 percent made in India—locally designed, assembled and produced. Richa Bansal reports.

A choker that opens up as a mask, a shield-like social distancing (SD) jacket with pockets that sanitise, a face visor that can collapse and fit into your glares’ case, a UV hanger that will make your clothes safe when you return indoors and lots more in the pipeline. NIFT raduate and co-founder-Craft Village  as also a former faculty member at NID, Somesh Singh is on a roll as he spends much of his waking hours researching, designing and prototyping fashionable yet functional gears for a still getting attuned to a bleak COVID-19-ravaged ifestyle the world over. “We can’t be  moving around in the PPEs that we are currently seeing. We must come up with more comfortable if not trendy wears to keep this killer virus at bay,” asserts he.

Besides, Singh adds, as the world begins to ‘unlock’ itself in phases, the virus continues to run amuck. Each individual is now increasingly responsible for his / her safety, and yet in spite of interventions by the authorities that be, the relaxations mean more and more people will interact with each other at work and in public space.

“I took to designing the smart apparel as these were some of the basic questions that bothered me: how does one know that a person working in a space or office or moving in public space is not unwell? How does one know how to maintain a distance of minimum 2-metres or 6-feet, and not cross the Laxman Rekha so to say, and maintain a social distance as advised by experts? How does one sanitise wallets, cards, watch, mobile phones etc all the time? How does a company / government track who has been where in factories, or at railway stations, bus stops? Then carrying a mask is a huge problem and all the time the hands will get dirty if kept in pockets.”

And as the mind nagged, the designer in him took over. So what is ready as of now is the Indradhanush or the SD jacket, and a folding face shield. Made using Cemi-Flex (cement fabric) of Craft Beton, an initiative of Dalmia Cement, the jacket is equipped thus:

  • Temperature display: You can monitor your own temperature any time, and so can any other person / company or any authority. The display on the garment, much like a badge, displays real time body temperature.

  • Social distancing: The jacket beeps if you cross or someone enters your territory, helping you maintain the required social distance all the time and at all the places. It can be switched off when you are in an isolated space.

  • Magic pockets: These are equipped with low intensity UV lights required to sanitise regular use items such as a cell phone, handkerchief, watch, wallet, credit cards, sunglasses and gloves etc. The direction of the low intensity UV light and use of reflectors contains the light in the defined space and does not penetrate through the fabric to harm the body.

  • QR code / chip: The QR code helps to track identity and other whereabouts to trace the movement of people in highly crowded places and elsewhere so that the people moving in these spaces can be monitored all the time. It also helps in recording temperature all the time and at any place without requiring infrared guns.

  • In-built mask: The jacket's convertible collar doubles up as a mask which can be folded back as a collar when required. The mask can be detached, washed or sanitised as required.

Richa Bansal (RB): I guess you would call it a smart or intelligent apparel?

Somesh Singh (SS): Absolutely! I must mention that it is battery operated. And, there is also the fragrance finish o the jacket that would help people to de-stress during high pressure work. The jacket also has glow-in-dark print so that someone seeking help can reach them even in areas where they may be no light.

RB: How did you go about designing it?

SS: I have been designing uniforms and gear for the army and police and during this I had done extensive research on material, function, technology, ergonomics and construction. I designed the jacket in a linear way so that it makes the user feel fit and healthy, and can be available in any colour, texture or design. It can be customised as per design requirements.

RB: Why did you use cement fabric?

SS: There were many materials available, but most of them are 100 per cent synthetic. The cement fabric is a combination of natural material (50 per cent) and synthetic material (50 per cent), making it comfortable to wear and later when it is disposed, it reduces the impact on environment—that is also a battle we have to constantly bear in mind. Plus, the cement fabric has stretch so it is comfortable for all types of body movement. This cement fabric looks like leather and could perhaps save a lot of animals from being sacrificed for their skins; it is also biodegradable and doesn’t require energy to iron or water to wash, making it highly sustainable.

RB: Have you prototyped it and applied for patent? What will be the cost?

SS: Yes, the prototype is ready and if any testing is required, a laboratory or agency can do. It is ready to be mass-produced. The IPR has also been applied for. The sample price is .5,000-7,500 per jacket. But if mass produced it shall be much cheaper. But typically, it will be available in this price range only, since the fabric cost being a specialised one is higher. The Cut-Make-Trim cost is very nominal.

RB: What about its wash and care?

SS: For cleaning all it needs is a normal wipe and sanitiser. The cement fabric does not stain and nor does it attract dust. However, it should neither be ironed nor washed as the use of Cemi- Flex ensures energy saving by not requiring either.

RB: Tell me about the folding face shield?

SS: The folding face shield is a handy equipment that one can carry it everywhere and keep it in your glares’ case. It has in-built speakers to hear and talk eschewing the need to touch the phone or bringing it close to the face or mouth. While it seals in the front, it also gives air direction in general to help cool the head in summers. Its design quotient with uber cool looks make this face shield a fashionable protection which we are missing in the times of PPE.

This article was first published in the June 2020 edition of the print magazine.



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