Design matters : Parametric Clothing Design?
The History of Clothing Design
I have always been a history buff. I give a talk on the History of Dermatology as I love to learn and discuss the evolution of the field over the past century. Many do not realize that pre-WWII / pre-penicillin, the field of Dermatology was primarily focused on the skin findings associated with sexually transmitted diseases. Skin cancer was not commonly diagnosed unless it had progressed enough to require a doctor's attention. After penicillin became more widely available, the incidence of STDs such as syphilis began to decline. Through the 1960s and 1970s, various advances in medicine, technology and access to care with the start of Medicare, Dermatology slowly evolved to start to find that skin cancers could be detected earlier and were increasing in prevalence. Today, skin cancer truly makes up the bulk of my practice given its high incidence.
Fashion and clothing design, similarly, have also evolved over the past century. Clothing and fashion as an art and form of self expression is clearly reflected in how we can sometimes readily identify specific eras or decades by fashion alone.
Although various cultures and societies may include aspects of design based on cultural norms or modesty, the concept of parametric clothing design has largely been limited to certain trades or uniforms. For example, designing military uniforms or medical gear based on the need the clothing serves.
The History of AmberNoon
Over the past 10 years, I have performed thousands of skin cancer screenings and diagnosed and treated thousands of skin cancers and precancerous spots. I began to recognize patterns where these skin cancers tended to be found. Of course, sun exposed areas were a well known and established phenomenon given the connection between UV exposure and skin cancer. However, what I realized is that many of my patients were actually pretty good at consistently wearing sunscreen when needed- however they limited their use to certain areas. The face was pretty consistently covered with sunblocks or other products that had incidental sun protection. However, the neck, forearms, backs of the hands, back of the neck, chest - these areas were inconsistently protected.
The consequences of this were the fact that well intentioned patients determined to protect their skin from skin cancer were still being diagnosed with skin cancers and precancerous spots. The reality was simple- either it just wasn't on their radar to apply sunscreen to these other areas consistently, or it was messy and ran the risk of ruining clothing, or sweat and washing could reduce its effectiveness.
Although sun protective clothing has been around, it was functional- kind of like a uniform for people trying to avoid the sun. When companies tried to make sun protective clothing fashionable, they simply lacked the medical expertise and experience to understand that sun protective clothing is not just about the fabric, it also has to focus on design. After all, you can make a bikini out of sun protective fabric but it is unclear if this will play a significant role in preventing skin cancer alone if it does not cover enough surface area of the exposed areas of skin.
The best example of this is the photo above. My patient was a part of an era when baby oil and iodine were used in the sun decades ago and struggled with severe sun damage. She decided to start to wear sun protective clothing by another brand a few years ago. Last year, I found this melanoma just behind her right shoulder. This photo shows where her sun protective shirt left off and where the melanoma developed. She had a false sense of security from her shirt and did not wear sunscreen on her neck and upper back thinking if her shirt was on she was fine. We fortunately caught this melanoma early but she had no idea it was there until she came in for her routine skin cancer screening.
If we really want people to wear sun protective clothing, there had to be a practical solution to make it more wearable and more effective.
This is when AmberNoon was born. I decided to merge fashion and clothing design as an art with the science of parametric clothing design to create styles people could and would actually wear. I focus on understanding where skin cancers occur, where sunscreen products fail, and understanding the angles and sources of sun exposure that place certain parts of our body at a higher risk.