Textile marketer Louise Nicholson founded Fifty One Apparel in 2017. The brand is named after the average age when people can begin to experience menopause.
While exploring high tech fabrics for regulating temperatures, Nicholson found that these products tended to be cooling fabrics, which ignored the cold flashes that often follow hot flashes. “I did some initial research to find out what was on the market, and there was absolutely nothing apart from nightwear,” Nicholson was quoted in a press release by NASA. Her search soon brought her to a technology called Outlast.
In the 1980s, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston was looking for ways to improve insulation in spacesuit gloves. The centre entered into a Small Business Innovation Research contract with the Triangle Research and Development Corporation to explore the use of phase-change materials, which maintain a steady temperature as they change phase from solid to liquid or vice-versa.
Based on earlier work it had done with the US Air Force, by embedding phase-change materials into microcapsules inside the material, Triangle was able to demonstrate the effectiveness of a temperature-stabilising fabric insert for a spacesuit glove. While the technology never went into space, Gateway Technologies (later known as Outlast Technologies) acquired exclusive patent rights from Triangle and soon began marketing it under the name Outlast.
Outlast has been used in numerous products, from desk chairs to underwear. Walero, which uses the material in clothes for race car drivers, had sold some of its Outlast apparel to people experiencing menopause, but Nicholson noticed that there didn’t seem to be any brands using this technology specifically for menopause.
The initial products, a line of shirts in four styles were first sold to consumers in London via parties, but the company has expanded to e-commerce, selling tops, bottoms, and nightwear directly to individuals around the world. As of 2021, the United States is Fifty One’s second-largest market after the United Kingdom, and the company is looking to obtain a local distributor for the product. In addition, Fifty One has expanded its range of Outlast-based products, including accessories like scarves, facemasks, and turbans, added the release.
NASA has a long history of transferring technology to the private sector. The agency’s Spinoff publication profiles NASA technologies that have transformed into commercial products and services, demonstrating the broader benefits of America’s investment in its space programme. Spinoff is a publication of the Technology Transfer programme in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).
According to the National Institutes of Health, 1.3 million people in the United States begin to experience symptoms of menopause each year, usually characterised by feelings of intense heat known as hot flashes. Menopause can last for years, and the associated temperature swings are uncomfortable at best and debilitating at worst.
Fibre2Fashion News Desk (NB)