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Co-Creation – The Ecodesign Prototype halfway

Co-Creation – The Ecodesign Prototype halfway

Here we are at the halfway of this Co-creation journey. During the last week of January, at the Mid-term, every hub met in Madrid to re-think fashion and technology, using the occasion to check the progress of each project since Re-FREAM started, four months ago in October.  

From October, Alma is changed, shaped and still being improved through the user suggestions that Giulia and her team have collected during each ‘ALMA meets Flora Workshop‘ ran so far.

ALMA meets Flora’ Workshop explores how intimate female health is experienced by females in our society.

From Brazil to Italy, Thailand, Malaysia and Switzerland, the team has been gathering many insights on the look, behaviour, function, shape and comfort that Alma should be designed with. 

For the Mid-term presentation, the team has worked on some essential elements to explain the up to then Alma development. A video documentation of the four ‘ALMA meets Flora’ Workshops organized around the world until January and a collection of women’s testimonies. From 1970, with the Women’s Doctors and their book ‘Our bodies: Ourselves’ to the period-proof underwear company Thinx, a video of women that have always been fighting against Society to democratise female taboos. A zine designed to analyse the insights collected during each workshop’s exercise and pictures that frame its moments. Before the beginning of every workshop, all the attendees have been requested to fill in a privacy permission form to let us respectively document their words, thoughts, actions and faces.

The aim of our workshop is to co-design educational tools and methodologies to support a language that includes the well-being and care of female intimate health in our Society. 

Tauras S, graphic designer and new member of the team, is developing the Alma visual identity with the purpose to represent our users as best. He designed a poster to visually describe the structure of ‘ALMA meets Flora’ Workshop and embroidered it on textile. The workshop structure is composed of three exercises that encourage the participants to discuss taboo topics, also for a possible future underwear innovation. 

At the Kar-Narayan Laboratory, University of Cambridge, our scientist Tommaso is working on a textile-based pH sensor to monitor the pH of the vaginal discharge. In collaboration with Christian from Fraunhofer IZM, Tommaso is developing the most accurate and efficient sensor for Alma, shifting from a sensor made in PET film to a textile substrate. The sensor is made of two parts: the working electrode and the reference electrode. The co-creation started with the reference electrode manufacturing. A silver-coated textile needs to be modified to silver/silver chloride textile. First experiments were quite successful, proving that it is possible to develop a textile-based pH sensor. We are currently researching and testing different materials for the best signal sensing performance.

With Max and Robin from Fraunhofer IZM, we are co-creating the Alma eco-design profile, in order to respond to material sustainability, circularity and environmental responsibility. It’s not easy to find and fit electric and textile components for the prototype to be entirely an eco-design system. Therefore, we’re open to considering more than a way to track the pH from vaginal fluids. This is the reason why Giulia has just started new research on the textile dye, with natural pH-sensitive dye to monitor the color change of the underwear in case of an ongoing abnormal (pH 6 – very alkaline) vaginal fluid. The aim of this dynamic monitoring system is to support the users to be familiar with their vaginal health flora and recognize the possible vaginal infections ahead. We decided to experiment with red cabbage and Blue Butterfly Pea flower, also called Clitoria Ternatea and in use of Chinese medicine. The shape of the flower is believed to resemble female human genitals, in particular the clitoris, hence the name Clitoria – perfectly fit for Alma! Giulia discovered the flower during her stay in Malaysia where she ran the 4th ‘ALMA meets Flora’ workshop. Both red cabbage and clitoria are pH-sensitive, their colour can be extracted and used as a pH indicator solution. We used their dyes for colouring the gusset of female underwears, where we later applied some vaginal fluids on top – fluids that have been collected in different phases of a woman cycle to test the pH colour changing. 

Researching the physiology of vaginal fluids, Giulia started to practice the Billings Method to deeply understand and become comfortable with her menstrual cycle. Guided by Giovanna, her BM expert, Giulia is tracking her cervical mucus daily, writing down the color, consistency and feel of her fluid. It is not a quick or easy practice to learn because the mucus changes are plenty during the cycle and they depend on the hormonal phase. Combined with the Billings Method application, Giulia started to read Miranda Gray’s book, ‘Red Moon’. The book explores cultural traditions, myths, spiritual energies and the relationship between the moon cycle and the menstrual one; with the purpose of helping women to understand and acknowledge those energies, and to use the creative, sexual and spiritual gift of the menstrual cycle. 

In Madrid, Giulia and her team presented the Mid-term status of Alma, exhibiting the mentioned material to the Re-FREAM Commission. Some feedback highlighted and questioned the fashion and aesthetic aspects of the project. Those that will follow the insights collected during each ‘ALMA meets Flora’ Workshop, tailoring the aesthetic expression of the underwear on what the user would love to wear. During the private meeting with Hub Berlin, we have defined the Art-Tech Collaboration and the Co-creation as outcomes to work on for the last half of Re-Fream. Our aim is to enable everyone to use technology for their body health. By the end of the funding, we will present the impact on intimate care education to the European Commission.

Last February, Giulia won the World OMOSIROI Award 6th a Japanese prize given to her for her multidisciplinary work. WOA is an international and interdisciplinary award established in 2015 by Knowledge Capital to highlight and enhance the KC’s core value “OMOSIROI”, a Japanese word meaning “interesting”, “entertaining” or “convivial”. It aims to spread the values of OMOSIROI to the world, by presenting an award to people whose ideas and activities are inspiring and eye-opening. During the award ceremony in Osaka, Giulia presented and exhibited the work in progress of Alma’s prototype, collecting positive feedback from the public. Watch the video presentation of her work.

The Team is honoured to keep working on this project supported by Re-Fream, STARTS and the EU Commission. 

We are going to share online soon:

* the Open Call for Fashion Designers based in Brazil, Italy, Thailand, Malaysia and Switzerland to co-design the ideal ALMA undies

* the ‘ALMA meets Flora’ Survey dedicated to people who identify with the female gender and is open to explore intimate healthcare subjects

Stay updated with us!

Thanks for reading! More info on gitomasello.com
CRE - Wolfgang
Author: CRE - Wolfgang

Wolfgang is communication manager for Re-FREAM and project manager at CREATIVE REGION Linz & Upper Austria.