This smart Ajrakh jacket comes with an anti-viral finish, social distancing sensors, sanitisation pockets, a thermometer and an in-built mask
Somesh Singh, a former professor at NID Ahmedabad and the former Director of Institute of Apparel Management, declares that the Covest, a jacket he has designed, merges crafts with technology. The four-layer jacket is made using cotton printed Ajrakh (a block printing technique from Gujarat), and has various in-built capabilities to protect the wearer from infections outdoors.
It took him more than two months of research, trial, and error, before the prototype was finalised. Constructed with Cemi-Flex (cement fabric combining natural and synthetic material that looks like leather), the jacket is coated with Viroban-N9 SC 100, an anti-bacterial and anti-viral textile finish. It is fitted with social distancing sensors, sanitisation pockets, a thermometer to measure the body temperature, and an in-built mask.
The Ajrakh is sourced from national awardee Abdul Jabbar Khatri, a craftsperson from Bhuj. Somesh is awaiting an ISO 45001 certification, after which the jacket will be available online, around September. Initially, it will be priced at ₹4,999 and available in sizes , S, M, L and XL. Excerpts from an interview with Somesh, who is also an NIFT graduate and has worked with the Indian Army in the past to design warm clothing for soldiers posted in Siachen.
How did the idea of the jacket occur?
Like many others I believed coronavirus will go away in three weeks after lockdown 1.0. But it didn’t. One day I went out to fill petrol in my car and forgot the mask at home. After using the credit card for payment, I wondered how I could sanitise it, along with other personal belongings like car keys, coins, kerchief, wrist watch, spectacles or sun glasses, mask, gloves and mobile phone. Over the next few days I read hundreds of articles to understand the nature of the virus and it became clear that as part of new norms to effectively tackle the coronavirus, a person’s behaviour will have to be altered.
How did you find the answer in combining crafts with technology?
As multiple doubts gave birth to ideas, I zeroed onto what is popularly known as smart clothing abroad, but not much known in our country. The best product I could think of was a garment-like jacket that could help to embed sensors in a 360 degree sphere to ensure the mandatory physical distancing, to fight COVID in a mindful way. And handcrafting it would also mean jobs for craftspersons.
How does fashion meet health in your product?
It is fashion moulded into functional health! For instance, the mask was never an accessory and wearing it is not our habit. But now the convertible collar of the jacket will not allow you to forget. Introducing Ajrakh print as a start will find quick acceptance in the market.
What is the purpose of the jacket?
The jacket is not for treatment, but has been developed to check the contagion by incorporating different preventive features. It is important to build a culture of alertness through our dressing, just as we are working on immunity boosters, given a future vulnerable to infections.
Could you describe the jacket?
The garment looks like any usual jacket but for its unique features such as a sensor fitted on the shoulders and the back that beep if you do not maintain the recommended distance of two metres with others on any side. A digital thermometer fitted in the front reads the body temperature on simple finger contact.
Three-layered 6X10 inch pockets are stitched in the front where all your personal belongings fit in for sanitisation in 30 seconds under UV light of 260 nanometre wavelength. The metal buttons are switches to operate the LED lights for the UV radiation and the seams act as circuits. When you open the pocket flap to take your things out, the radiation circuit gets cut.
How does a person maintain the jacket?
It is regular daily wear, which you will need to dry clean preferably every fortnight. Remove the batteries before giving it. The mask is detachable for frequent home wash.
Can the jacket be used in other situations?
Since this is a jacket made for the COVID-19 pandemic, the sensor range is two metres. It can be increased for visually challenged people for proximity alert, and women can be warned of stalkers. Bikers can prevent accidents with vehicles coming from behind. I also want to provide a fragrance finish to the jackets to reduce stress through aromatherapy.