My final senior studio was sponsored by Horace Small, a uniform
company of parent VF Imagewear. Horace Small is a fantastic company, and it
was a blast getting to work with them. They were looking for a fresh
perspective on police and EMT uniforms, with a mix from concept-exploration to immediately
Before we started, each person picked an area to focus on, such
as comfort, style, mobility, and materials, so that as a class we could provide
a wide range of ideas with limited overlap. This would also allow us to better
focus on what direction our individual projects should go. For my set of
concepts, I focused on visibility. This informed and directed all of my
Though an independent project, we started off in teams,
researching existing products, user complaints, materials, etc. We also ran a
nationwide survey, where we collected the input of hundreds of police and fire
department personnel. While collecting general research and survey results, we
also interviewed many individuals and completed numerous ride-alongs with both
police officers and firefighters.
Based on the results of our research and what area we pursued, we designed an initial set of concepts which we presented to Horace Small to get a feel of what they liked, were interested in, what was feasible, and what direction they wanted to see us go. Early on in our research we discovered that being able to pick whether they are visible or not was of particular importance to officers. Being visible is certainly important to officers' safety, but there are many times when that same visibility could be a detriment.
Based on the feedback we received, we refined our concepts and presented our new and modified designs. After more feedback, we settled on our final concepts and...
...learned how to sew. Don't believe that well over half the class had never used a sewing machine? Check out the write-up and interview the university did on our studio. (You can also catch a glimpse of some of the awesome work from other students in the background.)
Core of the jacket stitched together. Learning first-hand about the finicky natures of sewing machines, non-standard fabrics, etc.
Reflective material caught by the flash of the camera. Jacket pattern pieces in front.
Jacket's almost finished... I put a wire-hole and Velcro on the back for the removable light-up panel.
Testing the EL signal panel.
Wiring up a button for the signal.
High visibility vest, in progress. Lining up the pieces before sewing. Before ever touching the fabric, I made a pattern on illustrator and printed it out on the department plotter.
Hi-viz vest stitching, as seen from the inside of the shirt.
Test-fit before final stitching. To model our designs, our studio purchased two mannequins. Half the class used one and half the other.
Jacket test-fit. Since it was designed to fit over an optional inner core, the outer jacket looks a little baggy here, but with the core it's a perfect fit. Here I was testing the sleeve and cuff length before stitching it up.
While researching uniforms in the earliest stages, one of the key discoveries we made was that "visibility" was one of the elements officers gave the least thought to, related to their uniforms. Most disliked having to deal with extra gear, or take the time to put on all the appropriate high-visibility safety gear when they needed to. However, high-visibility gear was still very important. Numerous injuries and fatalities have been the result of motorists not being able to see police officers in low-light situations. We also found that visibility could be a problem, just as much as a benefit. Sometimes it was important that officers weren't seen. These were the elements that inspired my concepts. My goals were to present a solution that would allow for high-visibility to be toggled on and off as the user saw fit, and to provide it as an integrated solution, so that there was no additional gear that would need to be carried. To meet these criteria, I integrated a high-visibility safety vest into the uniform shirt itself. Velcro tabs hold it in place, whether it is opened or closed.
Horace Small also wanted to explore some areas that it was currently not highly involved in. One of those areas was bicycle officers' gear. Given the problems we discovered while researching, and having discovered a lot of really cool biking options, many developed as individuals' solutions to their own problems, one of the ideas I presented was a modification of existing bike jackets for officers. The jacket was designed more like a bike jacket than the heavy, stiff coats that are frequently the only bad-weather option for officers, and it came with an optional zip-out inner core that could be removed to be washed or to make the jacket cooler, or zipped in during colder months. Since this was an occasion that the officers tended to want to be seen, large reflective panels were added to the front of the jacket. The signals were EL wire strips, which are very visible at night but require very little power to run. The jacket was also long enough to be able to cover officers' gear belt, as many officers had complained that their jackets didn't protect their gear in bad weather.