Smart garments in Baltimore: It ain’t just Under Armour

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Photo by Stephen Babcock

When Philip Spector arrived in Baltimore in the 1960s, the city’s textile industry was booming. Brands like London Fog, Joseph A. Bank and Haas Tailoring all had sizable operations in the downtown area between Baltimore, Lombard, Howard and Paca Streets.

He recalls a veritable army of seamstresses and tailors: thousands in that area alone.

Since 1994, the fifth-floor of the Wicomico Building in Pigtown has been home to Spector’s company, Fashions Unlimited. The workspace has machines, cutting tables and other sewing tools. It was humming on our early morning visit. Spector started the company in 1976, and specialized in working with companies to develop prototypes of new kinds of apparel. It’s led to a number of innovative projects, like a sports bra with a heart monitor and a jacket with enough insulation to ascend Mt. Everest.

Throughout its existence, Fashions Unlimited specialized in stretch fabric. That’s grown into work developing garments that weave technology directly into clothing. Talk about smart garments often includes visions of sensors and other devices embedded directly into the fabric of clothing. Spector has a unique role in figuring out how that will play out, and he’s working with big brands.

For one such project, he worked with Adidas to develop apparel that has sensors built-in. It’s called the miCoach techfit line. Users snap a device in, and it can track data on heart rate, as well as motion.

“It monitors the whole team on one computer on the sideline,” he said of one use with a European soccer team.

Read the rest over at Baltimore.

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