Big and bulky are likely what come to mind when you hear the term “space suit.” Final Frontier Design (FFD), a company based at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City, is not only trying to alter the appearance of what astronauts wear on their travels into outer space, but also take that technology to the streets.
Ted Southern, president and co-founder of FFD and one-time Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show wing-maker (he created about 150 pairs over 10 years), kicked off Product Innovation Apparel in New York on Monday by dropping some space-age knowledge on clothing and retail executives.
“There’s a much larger market here on earth than there is on space,” quipped Southern, whose company has been contracted by NASA to create highly specialized, customized safety garments for manned space flights. The problem: “It’s tough to find customers when we’re not flying people to space.”
That’s why FFD is trying to come up with offshoots that can be used by the Average Joe. One such spinoff, called the E Jacket (E for Emergency), is currently being prototyped and could be used in several real-life scenarios, Southern said, like backpacking or urban adventures.
Made from nonwoven Dyneema fabric bonded to mylar, the jacket weighs less than three ounces and folds up smaller than the size of a sandwich, yet offers protection against rain, wind and exposure. All seams are taped, which means they are inherently waterproof and have little to no added bulk.
The downside: it costs thousands of dollars to make, but the company is confident it could get that down to below $1,000 for commercial use. (No small feat, considering its NASA space suits hover around the $65,000 mark.)
Similarly, FFD’s lightweight G Pants (anti-gravity bottoms typically worn by astronauts under their space suits in order to keep blood in their upper body) have a lot of potential applications on earth, too.
“They could be worn by anyone sitting for long periods of time, someone with real concerns about blood clots and blood flow through the body, these can assist with that quite a bit,” Southern explained.
At the end of the day, he said, there are many spinoffs of technology that NASA pioneered (think: GPS). Space suits are ready for the mainstream, too, and FFD wants to be at the forefront of that mission.
“There’s a lot of technology you’ve seen from our competitors (for example, David Clark Company) that hasn’t been spun off into garments,” Southern said. “Space applications can be really exciting for use on earth.”