Here’s some unusual criteria to consider when deciding what to wear: if you’re scanned by facial-recognition software, do you prefer being detected as a zebra, giraffe, or a dog? Cap_able, an Italian fashion-meets-tech startup, prompts consumers to consider individual rights to privacy when making decisions about self-expression. The studio’s inaugural project, the Manifesto Collection, combines knitwear with an algorithm into a kind of 21st-century camouflage that protects the wearer’s biometric data without the need to conceal the face.
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Built on ideas of collaboration and awareness, Cap_able was established in 2019 to fuse technology, textiles, and fashion into a high-tech product with everyday applications. Evocative of Magic Eye puzzles, the technology behind the Manifesto Collection‘s psychedelic patterns is an innovative system “capable of transposing images called adversarial patches onto a knitted fabric that can be used to deceive people detectors in real time,” the company says.
“Choosing what to wear is the first act of communication we perform every day. (It’s) a choice that can be the vehicle of our values,” says co-founder and CEO Rachele Didero. Likening the commodification of data to that of oil and its ability to be sold and traded by corporations for enormous sums—often without our knowledge—Didero describes mission of Cap_able as “opening the discussion on the importance of protecting against the misuse of biometric recognition cameras.” When a person dons a sweater, dress, or trousers woven with an adversarial image, their face is no longer detectable, and it tricks the software into categorizing them as an animal rather than a human.
The idea for the startup was planted in 2019 when Didero enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where she was introduced to topics and issues around privacy and human rights. The idea of combining fashion and computer science evolved during months of research in working with textiles and studying artificial intelligence. She developed the now-patented concept of knitting adversarial imagery directly into the fabric of the garments, giving them the ability to respond to an individual’s size and shape, as opposed to existing versions which could only be applied to surfaces. After developing prototypes and testing the patterns using different types of recognition software, Didero teamed up with business partnert Federica Busani to launch the first collection.
Unlike most clothing items you’ll find on the rack, Cap_able’s garments are accompanied by some unique fine print: “The Manifesto Collection‘s intent is not to create an invisibility cloak, rather, it is to raise awareness and protect the rights of the wearer wherever possible.” See the full collection on Cap_able’s website.
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