Fusing Fashion & Health With Tech Innovation

How do you define innovation? What makes a design innovative? Providing a checklist for innovation can prove challenging, as the answer lies beyond strong form, function, and aesthetic. Avant-garde design presents a new approach to solving the problem at hand while technology presents the opportunity to respond creatively to a particular market need. Working with new technology allows products to be adaptive, responsive, and transformative. These three core words embody SOLS, a lead 3D printing space combining technology with digital manufacturing to make products that are truly customized and mapped to fit each individual.

We sat down with SOLS’ lead industrial designer Jordan Diatlo to talk innovation in technology and fashion footwear plus have him sound off on what it truly means to design creatively.

What Makes A Design Innovative?

Jordan Diatlo: Innovation can be defined as creating something new that is impactful enough to change things away from the expected, the path that has been traveled. It could be a physical product, software, a business model, a process or something completely different. If the concept brings something new to the world that makes people forget the traditional way they did things, then it is innovative.

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How is SOLS Bridging Fashion & Health?

Jordan: Traditionally the health category has never placed importance on personal style and aesthetics, which was okay. There are definitely some other designers and companies that have been trying to push the boundaries, but where SOLS differentiates is in the customized personalization. Every person has their own individual style, much like every person has different foot topology. The core of our product is in using algorithmic 3D design to tailor SOLS to perfectly fit each patient or customer’s feet. We also give our customers the opportunity to tailor their SOLS to their style when they choose different materials, finishes, styles, or fit to shoe options. Through this personalization, SOLS is taking what is traditionally a medical device and making a designed piece of technology that people want to wear.

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How Has 3D Printing Allowed You to Design Creatively?

Jordan: 3D Printing really frees us up to explore all types of compliant structures that traditional manufacturing methods would not allow. Our Heel Cups are great examples of complex geometries that in other materials or processes would be heavier, bulkier or made of more than one part. The great thing about 3D printing as a means of manufacturing is that it allows us to combine different structures into one continuous part. In doing so, we treat the foot as one whole part, rather than isolating different features to different sections of the foot like more traditional orthotics. This very much drives the entire SOLS design ethos.

What is the Future of Fashion Footwear?

Jordan: I think the future of fashion footwear will be in smarter or higher tech materials. We hear a lot right now about different “smart” products across all categories. Some products stand the test of time, but many fade out. The products that will last have to involve some material innovation that allows for a more seamless introduction of the innovation into someone’s lifestyle. I think we’ll see more and more material innovations that allow the footwear to adapt to a changing lifestyle. This past winter we did a project for NBA AllStar Weekend and Fashion Week called ADAPTIV, which was our vision of the future of footwear.

Jordan’s 5 Key Tips On Truly Creative Design:

  1. Ask yourself: Is this new? Does the world need it? Will this be an improvement over what we have today?
  2. Try to envision an ideal future in the field you are looking to innovate in and think about what steps must happen to get there. The ideal world could take decades to achieve, but each step along the way can be considered an innovation.
  3. Keep an eye on trends in design, fashion, technology, manufacturing and material science. A fresh idea from one field reapplied in another can totally change that category.
  4. Always sketch or make rough prototypes to quickly explore new possibilities in your ideas. Doing so provides you a chance to react to the ideas and evolve them through iteration. Designing in CAD from the start often gets you stuck to the original form of the idea. Even if you are innovating in a nonphysical space, rapid prototyping or trial and error are great ways to quickly improve upon ideas.
  5. Keep in mind that not all innovation is huge game-changing innovation – sometimes it is incremental. It’s important to see the impact that small innovations have on the bigger picture.
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