Fashion & Aerospace: Round table takeaways


Fashion & Aerospace: Round table takeaways

Why Fashion & Aerospace?

These words together represent a hidden world of opportunity between art and science that carries major implications for the future. It is about making aerospace more relatable and embracing the idea that we have so much more growth to look forward to amongst humanity, but also about fashion embracing its best qualities and creating pathways to innovation otherwise remotely possible through fashion.

 Gemini viii

Gemini viii

 Alexander McQueen spring 2012

Alexander McQueen spring 2012

It is a chance for a marketing executive and fashion technologists to collaborate with aerospace engineers and create marketable products for the real world, terrestrially, today. It is an opportunity for companies selling the dream of space travel to create experiences that tap into basic human emotions that create long-lasting bonds. Through materials science and manufacturing technology, it is a time for science fiction to become manifest throughout our daily lives. And it is an opportunity to explore the awe that space can inspire through design, immersive experiences, and artful communication.

Eager to gather together brilliant minds also motivated by these issues, Starkweather hosted the first Fashion & Aerospace Round Table discussion in New York on March 8th. With representatives from fashion, aerospace, materials science, medicine, law and communications, this multidisciplinary group identified some highly compelling themes within this ongoing conversation.

 Galaxy Cluster Abell 2218

Galaxy Cluster Abell 2218

These five key takeaways from the first fashion & aerospace round table just scratch the surface of what we can and will achieve together:

1) The inherent contradiction between the two is a direct indicator of the value they can bring each other:

“Fashion is inherently human, Aerospace is not.”

Within that contradiction lies the opportunity. Tension, diverse experiences and differing points of view allow for new discussions to take place that wouldn’t be considered in a silo. From that, the breadth and depth of the issues encompassed by Fashioning Aerospace are revealed. This is very intriguing because it signifies meaningful scalability and significant potential impact.

The words next to each other tell a compelling story that is so much more complex than the sum of their parts. In fact it will be our challenge to constantly poke and prod the intersection in order to access the areas of greatest potential impact. We will likely keep ourselves surprised and delighted for a long to come by the products of this discussion and community.

2) New materials and manufacturing are two areas of industry that represent important commercial opportunity between science and design, today. Because their motivations are different, and the way they handle materials is different, their desires and curiosity will lead to different questions and to different applications. The potential advances that can be made through collaboartive, multidisciplinary development could take us leaps and bounds ahead of where siloed development would.

3) There are important legal and ethical considerations that we will need to address along the way. As with any new technology, we will face questions about how to handle the changes to our daily lives and what we are willing to give up of what we know to adopt change.

Space exploration has always been an international effort, whether in competition or in concert, and this will certainly only become more true. There will be questions of how to prepare for the global interactions on this level and who will be setting the regulations in the final frontier. Cultural differences and conflicting priorities around the globe will have to be respectfully adressed.

We should have these discussions early and often.

4) Education and Immersive Experience are going to be essential tools for engaging the broader public over time. Imagination, creativity and science fiction offer endless possibilities for storytelling and entertainment. The fashion industry excells in marketing, and in creating a sense of aspiration amongst consumers. While artful fashion can inspire awe in an audience, the awesomeness of space is irreplicable. Our challenge will be to find ways to communicate that feeling expressed by astronauts who have experienced the “overview effect” to the public. We can have a lot of fun with this, using both traditional methods and new technology, reaching the imaginaitons of the creatives and the analytical alike.

5) The conversation of Fashion & Aerospace is more than just about Fashion and about Aerospace. It is about the implications on a philosophical, economical, physiological, and sociological level. It is a conversation about entire environments and creating a new world for humans to live in that takes the same considerations as fashion, regarding the individual and the necessity of human expression. This conversation is also about science learning how to treat humans more humanely. We are at an intersection where our technological capabilities allow us to explore creative interpretations of new advancements, and from our position in the world we have the privilege to do so.

 N90 region new stars, Hubble

N90 region new stars, Hubble

 Alexander McQueen Atlantis collection

Alexander McQueen Atlantis collection

It will be thrilling to watch this area of industry evolve as we get into more specialized conversations and expand the community. It will also continue to inspire and invigorate, when generous and bright individuals come around a table and spark each other’s imaginations and curiosity. This is the power that both fashion and space share: dreaming of what is possible, and pushing boundaries to get to closer to the answers we seek.

Starkweather is organizing a larger, mixed-format event to take place in Spring 2018, with a series of round tables leading up to the 2018 symposium. Sign up below to stay engaged.


Why 33?


Why 33?

Company values are important to us here. And rather than throwing characteristics up on a wall, we looked back in our experience to the times when we felt fully inspired and like anything was possible. This is the attitude we at Starkweather want to embody, while tackling big issues from Fashion & Aerospace, to the design of a new Crux answering new design challenges.

33 crept in slowly, through a pivot last year, seeking guidance from timeless sources of inspiration to carry Starkweather into the next chapters, and years ahead. This number not only represented a way to show thanks for the place of origin of the Starkweather story, Chicago, but also the resilience and competitive spirit of athletes who, over and again, leave it all out there on the playing field. And more specifically, an athlete who helped transform a team with one star player into a legendary unit. 

Why 33? Because Scottie Pippen.

Because Focus, Determination, Alertness, Commitment, Adaptability, Balance

Growing up in Chicago in the early 90s, I couldn't,  at the time, have understood the impact that those games in the Chicago Stadium and United Center would have on me. The Scottie Pippen jersey that my dad gave me has become less a symbol of fandom than a reminder of the principles that made that team great. 

With six championship rings, two three-peats, and a spot in the basketball hall of fame, Scottie Pippen was not only part of a great team, but his particular role was unique in making it possible for Michael Jordan to be a teammate and not just a rogue super star. This is what it takes to get great things done. Leadership and teamwork together, working towards one clearly stated common goal.

That's why 33.


Product Potential


Product Potential

No one wants stuff anymore. Businesses have been created to help us get rid of our stuff, or share our stuff, or repurpose our stuff. We’ve been asked to decide: “Does it bring you joy?”

What does that mean for product companies that rely on people wanting (not needing) stuff the company sells? I like to think it means we will all make less stuff.

As a designer, I believe in creation for the sake of solving persistent problems and making lives better. I believe that making products beautiful is a critical factor of the overall success. And that there will always be a place in the world for products that answer those two criteria.

The best products are, and will forever be: Easy and obvious.

That is to say, once it’s introduced, it is such an obvious evolution that we can’t remember the world without it. And that we adopt it easily enough for that evolution to happen at scale.

Products are a vessel for change.

They inevitably take on a life of their own once they get into the hands of the user. The best designers will continue to be those who pay attention to that, and make an effort to understand the unplanned phenomena that emerge around their product. This follow through can help designers understand changing culture in a profound way.

Products are multi-faceted. They can be many things to many different people, and thus a vessel for many things, from self-expression and future shaping, to empowerment of people.

What does this mean in fashion?

When fashion products have such a short lifespan, it is difficult for them to grasp hold long enough to have an impact. Since the goal is for products to be easy and obvious, it would be an uphill battle to try and force different behavior around the consumption of fashion. But in order to impact that change, companies can make efforts on the back end.

If we want our products to be different, it can’t be superficial. Our process also needs to be different. From conception through production and onto consumption, the product lifecycle represents several opportunities for impact. Thus it’s role as a vessel for change. If we aren’t able to make change yet on the consumer level, we can at least make change through the design process (organizational level) and supply chain (potential global impact).

There was a time when garments were built to last; each item repaired and passed down through generations. With an older sister, hand-me-downs made up half of my personal wardrobe as a kid. The more disposable our clothes become, the less likely we are to give them a second life, either through repairs or through resale/donation/handing-down, and the less likely they are to last long enough to do so.

This is not to suggest that we all should own a sewing kit and learn to darn. Although that would be a great thing, it is unrealistic. Since we are not in the business of moving backwards, but going forward, we are better off not trying to go back to “the way things were before.” Instead, we can look to design new systems that create a new evolution, better than where we are, but equally better than the “good old days.”

Instead of being nostalgic for the way things were, we create a future that is undeniably stronger. This is the potential of products. There is a great responsibility on the shoulders of creators not to fill the world with waste, but to add value. As so many would-be consumers make efforts to rid themselves of stuff, now is the time to solidify that mindset by answering it with products of value.

Product has the potential to be a vessel for positive change in many ways around the world. It starts with the process. And while the consumer climate is demanding less, we have the chance to seal that relationship with the consumer, thus empowering an era of conscious consumerism at scale. Let’s not let the opportunity go to waste.


Fashion & Aerospace Round Table


Fashion & Aerospace Round Table



connect the dots between technologies & mindsets currently being developed in both fashion & aerospace

Due to the format, this event will be invitation only. There will be a follow up event for general interest that will involve a Q&A with leaders of this converging space. If that's you: Please also register below to get a priority invitation to the upcoming Q&A


Fashion Tech Update 2016


Fashion Tech Update 2016

The integration of fashion and technology is still nascent in 2016. Although we hear about technology transforming fashion everywhere from the Harvard Business Review and Forbes to The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, the context is often questionably fashion, and more simply just technology. It can come down to a game of semantics and gimmickry. But the inevitable future of "Fashion Technology" is more a matter of necessity and survival for companies than an optional marketing play.

the inevitable future of "Fashion Technology" is more a matter of necessity and survival for companies than an optional marketing play.

With every new startup, new experiment and new question we ask about how we can do it better, we get closer to that future. Soon fashion could start to change consumer behavior, become a place to find values rather than frivol, and even change lives. Textile innovation, manufacturing processes and transformed supply chains, customization, augmented and virtual reality, and big data, powered by the increased capital pushed towards these areas of innovation, will collectively drive this new era of fashion business.

Below, we've highlighted some of those key areas along with notable companies and individuals defining those new pathways. (not endorsements)


This is where it started to get the industry’s attention. When it finally became apparent that e-commerce was an inevitability of the future of shopping, websites were redesigned and relaunched, inventory systems were overhauled and new jobs were created like “social media manager” and “head of e-commerce.” Then conferences, like decoded fashion, brought in big money to tell people how technology could help them make more money and connect the right shopper with the right item at exactly the right time and call it “convenience.” All reinforcing the reactionary behavior of fashion businesses. Today, all of this is the norm.

On the back end, also, the tools that companies are using are becoming more efficient and sophisticated. PLM software, inventory management (now often split between e-commerce and one or more retail locations), and even design tools are changing the way a business is run and the roles of employees. 

Maybe because today’s relationship with digital is so much further evolved than ten, even five years ago, we have become complacent, satisfied with the progress that’s been made over a short amount of time. But whatever the reason, we have gotten a bit stuck in 2016. We know the story: across industries, of you don’t keep up with technology, you loose your competitive edge. And as far as who is tackling the challenges for the next chapter? Entrepreneurs. For the past several years, many startups emerge to solve the issues we face on a daily basis.

The most disruptive ideas launched more than five years ago. Mobile has promised to be the future of commerce for the past five. No one has proven that formula yet. Until we learn what the next wave of innovation will bring, they’ll still lead the pack (for better or for worse). Here is our short list:

Joor Global wholesale marketplace

Rent the Runway A rental market for clothing and accessories

Perch Interactive in-store displays

Shoptiques Shop from local boutiques around the world

Nineteenth Amendment Connecting emerging designers to their customer via small batch production

ThirdWaveFashion Fashion Tech Think Tank

Warby Parker Direct to consumer prescription eyeglasses

Reward Style How bloggers monetize their content



We've made progress. Innovation is here and technology is being embraced and explored by material scientists at universities, textile mills and manufacturers around the United States. In this New York Times article by Steve Lohr, technology is represented as a "gateway to revival" in places like North Carolina and Boston that once were booming apparel manufacturing hubs.

In 2016 there are labs growing bio-materials to replace animal dependency. There are synthetics that are mimicking nature, enhanced by modern technology, to improve on even our most precious natural resources. Through media, there is awareness, such as of water waste that goes into a single pair of jeans. There are efforts to keep toxic coatings and washes away from our skin and out of our waterways. There are manufacturing methods whose speed and efficiency have created new supply chain possibilities. There are new ways to join seams that enhance product performance. There are 3D printing machines that have us closer to zero waste than ever before imagined on a scalable level. Pattern makers can now develop patterns on the computer, and in real time see an avatar in the garment, how it will drape in 3D. There are new ways that promise to make customization not only feasible at scale, but a prerequisite for future businesses.

As of today, most of these innovations are still under development. They are in early iterations of product testing, the technology is still too expensive for the market, or there is no proven customer demand. Whatever the reason, those on this list will be called “futurists” just as much as “designer” or “scientist.”

Here is our 2016 shortlist:

Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Collaborative R&D to advance material science in textiles

Inman Mills “Our future depends on how we can innovate with fabrics”
Norman H. Chapman

Marvelous Designer create beautiful 3D virtual clothing

Drexel Materials lab: Shima Seiki Haute Technology

Google project Jacquard Fibers woven into fabric using traditional technique to wire our clothing

Project Jacquard makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms.
Everyday objects such as clothes and furniture can be transformed into interactive surfaces.

Spiber New-generation biomaterial development

Bolt Threads Spinning the Future of High Performance Fabric  

Dropel Fabrics Never stain your clothes again

Thinx Helping humans with periods  while doing social good, keeping girls in school


 Hanna-Barbera Productions/Warner Brothers

Hanna-Barbera Productions/Warner Brothers

In 2016, we’ve seen the release of the Apple watch 2, we’ve grown bored of our fitbits, we barely remember google glass…generally, we still hear the term “wearable” and wonder how that will ever fit into our daily lives. On the other hand, we’ve tried out Virtual Reality, lived through Pokémon go, and believe that drones will eventually deliver our amazon prime. We’ve gotten comfortable speaking to Siri and Alexa, driverless cars and with the idea of IBM Watson, however our economy is still confused by the fact that the job market is transforming with every new iteration of robotics and AI.

The useful introduction of wearables has thus far been successful in the healthcare and fitness worlds, but not yet fully integrated into the world at large. Prosthetics, for example, are pretty much the most badass of wearbles and are becoming more and more dexterous and precise. Not to mention the implanted human enhancements that the Cyborg crew are promising to normalize. Far from suggesting that the future is one where humans are all integrated with hardware, in the coming years, we will see wearables prove themselves on the most fundamental levels with subtle, discrete, un-techy changes, hidden in our clothes in non-invasive ways that will improve our lives.

Technology integrated into our clothing will be able to tell us all the information about ourselves and our environment, from symptoms of illness to blood sugar and stress levels, and air quality readings to directing us towards a meal that will balance out our vitamin deficiencies. We'll get an alert to remind us to take a deep breath, to grab a snack, or to go see the doctor before we even feel first signs of a cold. All of this will be done without needing to look at a screen. There are already leggings that help us with alignment during a workout. 

In 2016 we aren't as far as you'd think from that reality, yet we’re still calling smartphone cases “FashionTech.” Maybe we’re focusing on the wrong headlines? There is a balance in place between what the consumer is ready for and what is technically possible (where google glass failed, but the apple watch gained some ground). Startups around the world are tackling real problems with the body as a canvas to address issues where direct proximity to the body is a condition of the solution. The short list follows:

 Created by Sophie de Oliveira Barata, Fitted at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Photography by Nadav Kander and Omkaar Kotedia, Materials: Swarovski crystals / rhinestones / plastic shards / silicone

Created by Sophie de Oliveira Barata, Fitted at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Photography by Nadav Kander and Omkaar Kotedia, Materials: Swarovski crystals / rhinestones / plastic shards / silicone

The Alternative Limb Project

Touch Bionics

The Cyborg Foundation

Now 360: Beta Watch Fashion Shows in Virtual Reality

IBM Watson AI designing dresses in collaboration with designers

Elemoon First curved screen on a wearable device

SUPA Quantified human 

Nullspace Haptic VR: Feel the virtual world around you

WearableX Creators of experimental and commercial Fashion Tech products

Studio XO Collaborating on high concept fashion tech products for performers

EXTRA: An awesome in-depth look at AI and machine learning at the end of 2016.


Research and Development (R&D) in fashion is concentrated in activewear, manufacturing and materials science. Fashion companies tap into those developments for marketing purposes: innovative by association?

What compelling story could be told to guide them towards in-house innovation as a factor in the bottom line? Companies like Nike and VF Corporation (see more below) are setting the bar high by also adding a value proposition behind their research and development efforts. More value creation for the benefit of everyone.

As fashion businesses look for ways to diversify their structure and interests, there will be more incentive to look outward, towards other industries, for inspiration and for collaboration. Research and development is a great place to start.

Here’s our shortlist of people doing it right now:

Nike “Our function is to provide knowledge and insights. We are the global repository for the science of human performance and potential.” — Matthew Nurse, Senior Director of the Nike Explore Team Sport Research Lab

VC Corporation "At VF, we define innovation as “something new that creates value.” Innovation allows us to deliver new products and experiences that consistently delight consumers, and it drives organic growth and higher gross margins. We foster a culture of innovation within our company through collaborative networks and by building the talent and skills needed to inspire new ideas. At the same time, we go beyond the walls of VF to work with outside experts and other companies to provide our leaders and teams with new perspectives that can help them solve problems and discover new opportunities." 
(in numbers: infographic)

Polartec "Continued innovation is everything to Polartec. There are a lot of companies that can make a fabric, but there is little global capacity for actually creating a fabric, which involves significant investment. Polartec has more than 50 full-time engineers, technicians and chemists dedicated to product creation." – Gary Smith

Uniqlo " Freed from any hardset ideas, we have worked to capture new local fashion concepts early and then transmit them around the world. In addition, the basic garments for which UNIQLO is well known are also being modified and improved every day to produce even better core products.

Lululemon Lab “Our goal is to pave the way for progressive ideas and design in Vancouver and New York City.”

Final Frontier Design Designers and makers of safety gear and gloves for space travel

Francis Bitonti 3D printing studio producing "design and innovation for the information age"

Iris Van Herpen Revolutionizing the applications of 3D printing for apparel

Evernu Recycling cotton garment waste to create renewable fiber


2016 saw driverless cars become a reality, the dawn of Elon Musk’s mission for Mars, phones that catch on fire, and lots of other tech, political, and cultural news that shocked the world. How does fashion fit into this network of change?

Through the combined story of everything above, one of the greatest revelations of everything in 2016 is the narrative that is starting to form about where it’s all going.  

We have the potential to architect our immediate personal space in ways that are truly science fiction. Materials are being developed that will fundamentally alter the supply chain. Consumer habits are changing, for the better in terms of waste and resources, for the worse, in some cases, in terms of the bottom line. If consumers are buying less, fashion businesses will have to find other revenue streams. Ones that don't involve selling more stuff. This will be good for everyone in the long run, if very confusing in the short term. It means getting creative. It means Paradigm shift. It means innovation and experimentation at a scale the fashion industry hasn't seen since the industrial revolution. Think about it. It was the first time in history you could go to a store and buy something already made, off the shelf. We've taken that concept to it's limit, answering the questions: "how cheap can we make it?" "How fast can we make it?" "How much and how often can we get people to buy?" We've seen the consequences of those extremes. 


 TIME December 8, 1952

TIME December 8, 1952

Not only are we entering into The Third Wave, in which only our Seventh Sense will allow us to navigate the future, we are also entering into the Second Space Age. The first was celebrated in Fashion by Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin and a Europe-centric aesthetic of futurism, expressed through the new technologies of the post-war era. The second has a whole new set of tools for making, and a new concept of what is possible for humanity. The future I’m personally looking towards is one where space tourism is as common as international tourism. Buying your space station suit and compression gear will be just like buying thermals and ski parkas. Moon boots won’t just make of think of Napoleon Dynamite, they’ll sit in the closet next to our K2s, manufactured by a company that doesn’t exist yet using materials that are currently in laboratories and not yet on the market.

A more dystopian view of protective fashion came recently from Mad Max costume designer Jenny Beavandec in a NYTimes op-ed: “Clothing that can protect against these rapid changes is necessary to their survival — and it may someday be for us as well.” In both cases, the frivolity of fashion will be a thing of the past. We will look back on this time much like the eras preceding revolutions. The rationing of WWII will more closely resemble our approach to consumerism and manufacturing standards.

Heading into 2017 feels more like heading into 2027, when thinking of how far ahead we need to look in order to do meaningful work today. The current churning of newness, where 1, 6 or 12 month product development cycles barely allow us to see past our noses. We need to escape the undertow and take the long view. There is a tension between speed and projection that will only become more conflicting as computing becomes faster and faster and technology makes us ever more efficient. The challenge is to figure out where we need to be speedy, versus where we need to be deliberate.

As the networks of our world grow, we will have the ability to observe the behaviors of industries and organizations through different matrixes. Through these as of yet unseen connections, great opportunities will be available to the fashion industry in the coming years. Let us first recognize them, then be willing to seize them.

Thanks for reading, and we look forward to seeing what comes into this time next year. 



NPRs Coverage of Mongolia's Cashmere Goat Dilemma

"Today, Mongolian rangeland is at a crossroads."
–Bulgamaa Densambuu

 Lkhagvajav Bish's herd of cashmere goats feed on the winter grass in a valley in northeastern Mongolia. The goats' sharp hooves cut through the soil surface, and their eating habits – voraciously ripping up plants by their roots – prevents the grassland from thriving.   Rob Schmitz/NPR

Lkhagvajav Bish's herd of cashmere goats feed on the winter grass in a valley in northeastern Mongolia. The goats' sharp hooves cut through the soil surface, and their eating habits – voraciously ripping up plants by their roots – prevents the grassland from thriving.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

The toughest, and highly emotional, conflict here is in the experience of the herders themselves. 

"Yes, I know my goats are harmful to our grassland and the more we have, the worse our land becomes. I get that. But this is how we earn our money." –Lkhagvajav Bish 

Efforts to supplement the income of the herders so that their reliance on the income provided by cashmere are underway, but still experimental and not at the necessary scale. International involvement is necessary, as proven by the organizations already involved in research and aid in the area. 

Psychologically, Mongolia feels very far away. Exotic and of another time, even. But mineral rich and in sheer square mileage, it is geographically a huge asset to the globe. Historically, the world was undeniably transformed by the unification of cultures through trade new communication channels under the Mongolian Empire. 

And here we are today, where a unique way of life depends on a resource that is voraciously consuming its own hope for survival. 

 Lkhagvajav Bish unties one of her cows. Bish's herd has dwindled since she began raising cashmere goats. She used to have 20; now she has 150. "They're just taking over," she says.   Rob Schmitz/NPR

Lkhagvajav Bish unties one of her cows. Bish's herd has dwindled since she began raising cashmere goats. She used to have 20; now she has 150. "They're just taking over," she says.

Rob Schmitz/NPR

Out of the box, wild thinking. That's what we need right now. And a movement, to bring in the resources to implement massive change at a massive scale. But in the meantime, think about it when you wear your cashmere, and appreciate it for the delicate and incredible material that it is, and the lives that, at least for now, depend on it.

Listen to or read the NPR story here.