Travel Mobility Series

Future Mobility Trend Report: Fashion Tech of the 1800s

Future Mobility Trend Report

Fashion Tech of the 1800s

For the second part of the travel series, we are focusing on how people traveled before space expeditions. Not long before we were traveling to space, we were getting around this planet with trunks of luggage. Yeah, so your luggage today may have biometric locks, can be tracked around the world, weighs itself, has a bluetooth speaker, acts as a power source, has a security alarm and is, of course, indestructible with a lifetime guarantee. But before all of these modern-day features, luggage simply was used to haul around your stuff and at best, protect it from the rain and bandits. Trunks didn’t need to survive a zombie apocalypse or airport security, they were just used to transport your goods.

During the 1600-1800s traveling just for the leisure and fun of it started becoming “a thing” — sometimes known as the Grand Tour where young, wealthy 20-somethings (mostly men) would travel around Europe. Eventually, over time, more and more individuals started participating in this type of travel, but overall, this travel required trunks of luggage that would fit on different modes of transportation that existed at this time.

One trunk maker from this time period is still making waves in the fashion industry today. When Louis Vuitton went to Paris at the age of 16, he started working for Monsieur Maréchal who was a master trunk craftsmen. After some years working there, he left to create his own goods. The first trunk he introduced was called The Trianon Canvas in 1958. This trunk differed from others because it had a flat top and bottom making them easier to stack and transport. Before this, trunks would have a rounded top so that rainwater wouldn’t collect on them. But these trunks also were created with the gray Trianon material which made the trunks much more lightweight and airtight.


Textiles Deconstructed

Trianon: Coated canvas that was commonly used on many of Louis Vuitton’s trunks and is still used today. This coated canvas is much more lightweight than leather and has a scratch resistant property to it.


Beyond the creation of this coated canvas material, the Vuitton’s would go on to create and patent an unpickable lock. The single lock system has two spring buckles on the trunks. This invention was viewed as revolutionary at the time as people needed to keep their trunks safe while traveling. Louis Vuitton’s son, Georges, who later took over the company, patented the lock and even challenged Harry Houdini to escape from the trunk. While this would have been a great PR stunt, it never happened but the lock system is still in use today.

Since its conception, Louis Vuitton solved specific problems that were caused by traveling. Over time the company has proved that they were material science and hardware innovators. They have also become a luxury fashion staple around the world.

But not everyone traveled so luxuriously.

In 1873, Around the World in 80 Days was published by Jules Verne. Verne’s fictional character believes he can, obviously, travel around the world in 80 days and is put up to the challenge by a friend. The rest of the adventure ensues. Fifteen years later a real-life journalist, Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, with the pen name Nellie Bly tries to convince her editor that she was equipped for this mission. At first, her editor denies her the chance because he believed she would need many trunks of luggage and a chaperone (insert eye roll).

Yet Bly insisted she would only carry one small handbag and was more than well suited to handle the expedition on her own. Finally a year later, the editor at the New York World laments stemming from numerous threats by Bly to go to another paper (fun fact: she was a boss and a bit ambitious for the times). This change in heart only gave Nellie Bly two days notice to prepare for her trip.

Bly’s first instinct was to go directly to her tailor, Ghormley’s, and request that a new dress be made that evening. During the visit at Ghormley’s, the tailor took the time to show fabrics and explain the varying properties that might be important for the travel ahead. They decided upon plain blue broadcloth with trimmed plaid camels-hair — it was viewed to be the “most durable and suitable combination”.

After Ghormley’s, she went to another tailor and had another dress made that was much lighter since it’s always helpful to have more than one option. Unfortunately, that dress didn’t fit in the small leather Gladstone bag she would use on the journey. This bag measured approximately 40 cm by 43 cm and was quite small. In her own written account, she said, “Packing that bag was the most difficult undertaking of my life; there was so much to go into such little space.”

In the end, Bly only took the dress that she was wearing, a plaid Scotch ulster overcoat and a cap which was later famously worn by Sherlock Holmes, several pairs of underwear and only small items that fit into the bag. This was mostly pens and paper to write about the adventure.

She completed the journey in 72 days – again, ‘cause she was a boss. Along the route, she even met Jules Verne and went to his home in France. They shared dialogue and a little wine before she had to continue on in her journey.

While Bly and her tailor didn’t have time to create an entirely new material, she pushed the limits of what was possible and what individuals were perceived to be capable of at that time. She pushed this idea of traveling and exploration — she made it a continuous story on the front page news for over 72 days.

The need or desire to travel is still more alive than ever, and it’s going to continue pushing technology advancements and fashion along to adapt to our needs. Just like the spacesuit had to be made for a space expedition, or a waterproof trunk had to be made to safely transport goods, our needs are going to continue to evolve along with the technology required.


Illustration provided by Kate Kilpatrick-Galbraith. To view more of her work go to

Louis Vuitton. Legendary History.

LV Trunks.

Maria Popova. How to Pack Like Pioneering Journalist Nellie Bly, Who Circumnavigated the Globe in 1889 with Just a Small Duffle Bag.


Wikipedia contributors. (2018, September 1). Around the World in Eighty Days. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:10, September 12, 2018, from

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, September 19). Louis Vuitton. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:06, September 19, 2018, from

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, September 10). Nellie Bly. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:10, September 12, 2018, from

Mobility Series Part 1: Space Travel

Future Mobility Trend Report

Fashion Tech Mobility Series Part 1: Space Travel

The mobility series is a collection of short stories, facts, and anecdotes about historical changes in fashion tech. The series is a deep dive into some of the greatest changes in fashion that were born out of technological advancements. To start the series: One of the greatest examples of technology and mobility making an impact on clothing — space travel.

Yet, it’s important to understand that the spacesuit was such an integral part of the mission to travel in space – without it – the travel itself would have not been possible.

The space suit made its first appearance in movies and television shows but then quickly became a reality as great advances in technology were made. The advances were also coupled with the space race that started in 1957 and shortly thereafter, helped push the first Apollo mission attempt in 1961.


The production of the first NASA space suit for humans, called the A-7L, started with a competition. NASA asked companies to submit proposals and then decided to have two companies work together to produce the suit. NASA preferred the suit design from the International Latex Corporation, which was a division of Playtex. Yes, that’s right, a bra-maker was hired to create a spacesuit! But NASA was keen on the backpack design and program management experience of Hamilton Standard Division of United Aircraft Corporation. So they hired both companies.

Unfortunately, the plan to incorporate cooperation didn’t work at first. The two companies had issues forming a working relationship. In response, NASA split the space suit program into three different divisions which then led to the successful creation of the A-7L using a mix of companies to create different parts of the finished suit.

Why is this suit so fascinating? Well, the A-7L is the most photographed space suit in history. It was the one worn by Neil Armstrong as he landed on the moon. It protected and transported astronauts for Apollo 7 to Apollo 14. Also, it led to the creation of Beta cloth, a fabric with Teflon-coated microfibers. This material was fire resistant and was the outermost layer or cover layer of the suit. After the deadly Apollo 1 fire that killed all three crew members before launch, adding fire resistant material to the space suit became rather crucial.


But this Beta cloth was only 1 of the essential 13 required layers of the spacesuit. The suit also consisted of 2 layers of aluminized Kapton film separated by Beta marquisette laminate, 2 layers of nonwoven Dacron, 5 layers of aluminized Mylar and a rubber coated nylon.

For Apollo 13, red stripes of Beta cloth were added to the outside of the suits for one simple reason: To distinguish the astronauts in photos. NASA and the media had a tough time sorting out who’s who in photos – an issue that no modern-day facial recognition program could fix.

Besides the smart materials that were used in the suit, the suit ultimately had to be markedly mobile.

The astronaut’s wardrobe had to withstand extreme moon conditions from severe heat at 150°C and severe cold at -130°C in the shade. It also included technical features such as the oxygen supply and a cooling system with tubes that circulated water around the astronaut. At the same time, it had to be flexible enough to allow for maximum movement. Oh, and it had to protect against UV-radiation. Basically, the spacesuit was a fully functioning one-man spacecraft and created a life-sustaining environment (in this case, life-sustaining meant only 6 hours of primary life support and 30 minutes of backup life support).

As if all of this wasn’t mesmerizing enough, the production of the spacesuit had to be absolutely precise. There wasn’t any room for error. A stitching error greater than 0,79mm would deem an unworthy spacesuit.

Before being launched into space, the suit had to be x-rayed twice to ensure that no pins were left behind in the suit by a seamstress.

Textiles Deconstructed

Dacron: Also known as Polyethylene terephthalate, more commonly referred to as polyester. It is used as fibres in clothing, in containers for foods and liquids and has many other purposes. For the spacesuit, it was used as a spacer material. It was patented in 1941 but today DuPont Teijin Films US is the owner of the trademarks.

Kapton: Used for thermal blankets and insulation on a spacecraft, on flexible electronics and as a build surface for 3D printing. In the A-7L, it was used for reflective insulation. Created and patented by Dupont in the 1960s.

Beta marquisette: Separated the reflective surfaces and acted as a spacer in spacesuits.

Mylar: For the spacesuits, it was used for reflective insulation but it can also be used for its strength, stability, insulation, reflectivity and transparency.  Developed in the 1950s by DuPont, Imperial Chemical Industries, and Hoechst.

Beyond all of these fashion tech advancements, NASA has continued to have an impact on modern-day fashion. And we aren’t talking about printed  NASA t-shirts.

Materials originally developed for NASA are now finding their way back into women’s undergarments. Sportswear label, Reebok, recently picked up on a substance called “Shear Thickening Fluid”, developed by chemists at the University of Delaware as an armor technology for protective garments and spacesuits. The gel-like material that remains liquid when in a still-  or slow-moving state and becomes solid at high velocity was recently incorporated into a sports bra by Reebok-designer Danielle Witek. This innovation has the potential to change the entire activewear industry.

Stay tuned for the next part of our Mobility Series!


Illustration provided by Kate Kilpatrick-Galbraith. To view more of her work go to

Chaikin, Andrew. 2013, November. Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit Was Made by a Bra Manufacturer.

Thomas, Kenneth S. and McMann, Herald J. U.S. Spacesuits. Springer Science & Business Media, 23 Nov 2011. Google Books. Web. 08 Sep. 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, July 26). Apollo/Skylab A7L. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:24, September 10, 2018, from

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, August 24). BoPET. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:26, September 10, 2018, from

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, September 2). Kapton. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:24, September 10, 2018, from

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, August 20). Polyethylene terephthalate. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:25, September 10, 2018, from

ThePowerHouse The Future is Now

ThePowerHouse Event Calendar - September 2018

ThePowerHouse crew has quite a busy September up ahead! Here's a list of the events and visits we have planned for this month.

DMEXCO, September 12-13
Our Founder & CEO, Lisa Lang, will be on a panel at DMEXCO to talk about what your smart product can tell you. She’ll be joined by Niall Murphy and Rahmyn Kress while Seb Joseph will be moderating the panel on September 13 at 1:20pm.
If you are in the Cologne area and would like to join, email us at! We have four vouchers for the event that we can share.

WeWork Ku’damm, September 13
On that same day, our Creative Technology Lead, Jim Unterweger, will be on a panel at WeWork Ku'damm. The panel will last from 9:00-11:30am and is hosted by W Lounge, Start Alliance and Berlin Partner. During this panel and business breakfast, a discussion will focus on the advanced materials ecosystem within Berlin.
You can register for this event here.

You Create, We Knit event information

You Create, We Knit!

At this year's Berlin Fashion Week, we have created a very special treat for the guests of Bikini Berlin: we’re enabling you to become your own knitting artist!

As a first-time exclusive release, ElektroCouture is giving guests access to our knitting machines. At the event you’ll be able to create your own designs, turn your handwriting into knitting patterns and even pick your own color combinations — you become the designer of your own personalized scarf!

Taking place on 05.07. – 07.07, you’ll find a special workshop set up in the heart of Bikini Berlin on the ground floor. There you’ll find workstations where you can draw your own designs on our tablets or use prepared patterns to create your own digital designs. Use this opportunity to create a unique present for yourself or for your family and friends!  You'll also be meeting the team behind ElektroCouture since we'll be helping you with the design process. 

The results of each design will be knitted into a wonderful wool scarf, shipping to you within 20 business days after your purchase.

All scarves are 100% Merino Wool, OEKO-TEX® Standard, and made in Germany.

Bikini Berlin, Groundfloor
Budapester Str. 38
10787 Berlin

July 5-7, 2018
10:00am to 8:00pm

For more information visit the event on Facebook.