Billie Whitehouse has been shaking up the fashion design world ever since she collaborated on Fundawear, high-tech vibrating underwear – with design partner Ben Moir and Havas Worldwide as part of a PR campaign called “The Future of Foreplay” for condom company Durex. Fundawear allowed couples to enjoy touch sensations even if they were on different continents, using built-in sensors and smartphone technology.
Design is in Whitehouse’s blood – her mother started the Whitehouse Institute of Design in Australia when she was just one year old. However, Whitehouse didn’t take a direct path to fashion design. “In high school I wanted to be a doctor or a journalist for a minute, and like any teenager, I went to another university and started a different degree,” says Whitehouse. After exploring various avenues, she attended her mother’s university, completed her master’s program and returned to work at her mother’s school. Tasked with creating a five-year plan for the school centered on the future of the industry and education, Whitehouse honed in on wearables and sensor technology.
Havas introduced Whitehouse to Moir, and they worked together to develop the prototype for Fundawear, merging her fashion design sense with his technology and engineering skills. “We worked on it at nights between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m.,” says Whitehouse. The resulting campaign was a resounding success for the Durex brand, generating lots of buzz on social media, as well as a Silver Lion PR award for the brand and its agencies.
The success of Fundawear spurred Whitehouse and her partner to start their company, Wearable X, a “socially driven wearable technology company.” In late May, Wearable X launched its first product for sale to consumers, Nadi X, a line of yoga tights that incorporate sensors and haptic vibrations to help correct form and adjust posture. The company is also introducing a Nadi X bra line this year. All items are washable. “At first I was intimidated by yoga – I didn’t know where to position my body during class. The idea for Nadi X came from a both a personal interest as well as what I saw happening in the industry and culturally,” Whitehouse says.
Wearable X worked with a variety of yogis to build a database based on the language of the body, says Whitehouse. “It’s like writing music on the body, but instead of notes and intonations, we use technology.”
Some have compared Whitehouse to innovator and inventor Elon Musk. “I was quite shocked by that,” she says. “I’m a very efficient person, which is possibly where such a comparison might have come from.” However, she continues, “Musk runs his company like a well-oiled machine. I don’t do that anymore. I find the joy in small spaces.”
Wearable X recently launched Nadi X, a line of yoga tights that incorporates sensors and haptic vibrations.
Observing people inspires Whitehouse. “It’s the little things, like where they put the hand on the body, lines and proportions, shapes and colors – even a person giving a smile on the subway. It’s those micro-moments,” she says.
Whitehouse believes that evolving technology is good for the apparel industry. “I’m excited to see everything get smaller, cheaper and more intelligent every three months, so I look forward to an easy integration of technology,” she says. “Similar to the way we design with a button or a zipper, technology enchants products with entirely new functionality. My version of the future is far more like Harry Potter than Minority Report.”
Where is wearable technology headed? “I’d like to see it stop being called wearable technology, and instead, ‘Ready to Wear,’” she says.