Starkweather founder, Lee Anderson, was featured in this Sunday's Chicago Tribune, discussing the commercial space industry in Chicago. Here are some highlights from the story, reported by the Tribune's Ally Marroti:
" Picture people living in outer space, breathing inside helmets, going about their daily activities. What are they wearing? At a cosmic cocktail party, are they drinking champagne? Lee Anderson needed to know.
The Chicago-based fashion designer keeps a sketch pad full of fashion astronauts, as she calls them, in which she explores the idea of what an average person would wear in an otherworldly atmosphere.
It’s the intersection of fashion and space — something the founder of outerwear design company Starkweather has thought about a lot. As the space industry develops, Anderson wants her company to link the creative and scientific sides.
Anderson’s not the only entrepreneur looking toward the stars. From one- to two-person startups to Fortune 500 companies, firms throughout the Chicago area are eyeing outer space as their next market. The city may not end up with a rocket launching pad, for example, but Chicago has a role to play in the uncharted industry, some business leaders say, and companies are eager to start braving the final frontier.
Some have already begun.
Space program veterans Boeing and Caterpillar are continuing work to get their technology into the cosmos. There’s a startup looking to elevate planes into orbit, another company that’s aiming to build infrastructure in space, and at least one local law firm that wants to represent companies like them.
To be sure, the capital-intensive industry is still niche, one expert said, and expectations continue to outpace reality. So far, it has been a playground for billionaires like tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson, who recently announced that Virgin Galactic plans to take tourists into space by the end of next year.
But overall, the economy of space isn’t science fiction anymore.
The global space economy totaled $329 billion in 2016, up from $323 billion the year prior, according to a report from the Space Foundation, a Colorado-based advocacy organization. That includes NASA and military space spending, hardware manufacturing, telecommunications, broadcasting, and other industries.
“There are people interested in space in all of the industries, like myself in fashion,” said Anderson, who also founded FAAR, short for Fashion + Aerospace, an organization focused on education and building a network between the fashion and aerospace industries. “Even if just those people start to become aware of how they might get their foot in the door, we’ll all be better off.” "
" Anderson’s Starkweather is another example. The fashion company, which sells most of its products through trunk shows and custom orders, focuses on outerwear for urban environments. But Anderson and her New York-based partner’s approach is one that could apply to space-wear design.
“You design for what you want it to look like, then you find the technology and functional components to make it possible,” she said.
A long-term personal goal is designing spacesuits, Anderson said. Hence the sketch pad, full of far-flung musings.
There’s the Blackhawks fan in space, foam finger and all; the cocktail party attendee with a straw leading from her champagne flute up into her spherical helmet; and the fashionista in a gown, her bracelet shining through the protective sheer membrane that envelops her.
“It’s kind of ridiculous to be making these drawings,” Anderson said, sorting through the sketches. “(But) we have no idea what it’s going to be like, so why not?” "