Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - 29

DESIGNED
FOR WOMEN

T

To better accommodate curves,
True North Gear LLC adjusted
the fit on its Exxtremeâ„¢ Jacket-
Women, under the brand name
DragonWear, which serves utility
industries and the oil and gas
industry. Photo: Steve Rydgren,
Imaginessence Photography.

he hard truth is that most personal
protective equipment (PPE) is designed
for men, and women who need to use
it are expected to "make it work." Standards
are based on men's measurements, and PPE
manufacturers typically design and sew to those
standards. Take, for instance, NFPA 1977-the
National Fire Protection Association standard that
"establishes requirements for protective clothing
and equipment to protect against the adverse
environmental effects encountered by personnel
performing wildland fire fighting operations."
The standard includes charts that certified
garments need to meet for measurements
such as chest, waist and sleeve length-
and those measurements fit most men
better than most women.
For fabricators that design and make fire
protective clothing, those standards can prove
problematic for women who wear their products.
"The measurements are considered unisex, but we
all know that 'unisex' for protective apparel means
'men,'" says Emelia Black, product designer for
True North Gear LLC, an industrial and safety gear
manufacturer based in Seattle, Wash.
After more than a year of research and userbased design, True North launched its new
Women's Wildland firefighting shirt in April-
designed to fit a woman's curves and smaller
stature. "The effort is a part of our Title 9 Initiative,
which also includes PPE for utilities, and oil and
gas," Black says. "We realized there weren't
enough options for women and the fit wasn't quite
right, so we decided to design something better."
Now in its 28th year, True North is no
stranger to designing to user feedback. Under
the name Treknology, CEO and founder Alyx
Fier adapted his recreational pack designs
for the wildland fire market and changed the
company name to True North. When end users
said they needed a fire-resistant (FR) fleece
jacket, he not only designed to their expressed
need, he took it a step further and used fleece

True North Gear LLC uses 3D rendering before
sewing prototypes for new products, such as its
True North Brush Shirt Plus-Women's Wildland
shirt. Exclusively designed for and by women, the
shirt is constructed to help deliver comfort and
correct fit without sacrificing performance and
other useful features. Photo: True North Gear.

cutting scrap from the jackets and added
hats to the product lines to reduce waste.
When True North realized women firefighters'
garment needs were not being met, the company
ran a study asking women users what they needed
out of their Wildland shirts, and approximately 60
women firefighters responded. "The challenge
was to work within the NFPA 1977 standard while
trying to make it fit women better," Black says.
"If you can certify the garment, more people's
employers will buy it."
Black says the main issues with the typical
garments are that they are too long for
women, the shoulders are too broad and the
chest-to-waist ratio doesn't allow for curves.
"We did a lot of analysis based on ASTM
standards of fit, the measurements women
provided and then did 3D rendering to test
the fit before we made samples."
But the design process doesn't end now
that the True North Women's Wildland shirt
is available for purchase. "We did a soft
launch to test customer interest and get primary
feedback from the first customers and field
testers," Black says. "And we're looking into
making more women's items-and are supporting
groups that are lobbying the NFPA to change
the measurements to better include women."
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Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020

Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - Cover1
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - Cover2
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - 1
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - 2
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - 3
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - 4
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - 5
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Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - Cover3
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - Cover4
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - IFAI Expo Brochure 1
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