These shirts make an environmental fashion statement by reacting to air pollution. 

A smart clothing line, made by Aerochromics, detects either particle pollution, carbon monoxide or radioactivity. The shirts are fitted with sensors, which activate heat pads to turn the pattern on the shirt from black to white when pollution reaches 60 on the Air Quality Index (AQI). Designer Nikolas Bentel explains how his range of clothing will help save the planet.  

How did you come up with Aerochromics?

I came up with the idea while working in my studio one late night. The main idea was to better equip the public against pollution.

Is it really necessary?

Pollution does not discriminate against the place it will land or who the person is nearby. Many people do not realize how much pollution is nearby.

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How do Aerochromics work?

These shirts monitor three types of pollution: carbon monoxide, particle pollution and radioactivity. As the user walks into these pollutants, the shirt will change color, thus warning the user of the potential danger they are in.

How beneficial is that?

There are pollution sensor stations everywhere. However, each one is stationary, so once you move away from one of these sensors you will have no idea what type of pollution could be around you.  

It seems to be more of an art project than a fashion line…

Yes, I see this both as an art piece and a fashion line. One of the main goals of the project is to get people to be more aware of their surroundings especially in terms of pollution.

Why are Aerochromics so expensive?

We have a limited number. Depending on what the response is with this clothing, we will make many more and for cheaper.

What's next?

I see Aerochromics as the first step in creating an ecosystem of interconnected objects that will help us better understand, navigate, and protect our world. Every object, material and person must communicate with one another in order to better equip ourselves to solve the grand challenges we face — like climate change. Our clothing will be just one part of a larger system of connected objects. Each user will become a sensor monitoring pollution in real-time, and with much greater resolution than what the current system of static monitoring stations can offer.

Why is there a need for this type of clothing? There are apps to track pollution…

The color-changing Aerochromic dye gives the user the awareness of their surroundings through a natural interface as opposed to a smartphone screen, while the connected clothing will let us know when, where and how pollutants are moving. Since pollution is such a large and ever-changing problem, collecting precise data in real-time and combining it with the larger ecosystem of connected objects — unobtrusively —  is the most effective way to solve this problem.

—Dmitry Belyaev