Breathe shortlisted for D&AD Future Impact Awards and wins silver at the Creative Conscience Awards.
Published on: 7th October 2020
Breathe is a smart garment that aims to make chest binding safer and more dignified. Using smart materials to change the tightness of the garment at the click of a button, it helps wearers take discreet breaks without needing to find a private space.
Chest binding, most commonly done by transgender men and non-binary people, is the process of flattening one’s breasts using tight garments to appear more masculine. While chest binders can greatly improve the wearer’s mental health, 97.2% of binder wearers experience physical health problems including back pain, shortness of breath, overheating and occasionally even rib fractures.
This means that many transgender people who bind often have to make a difficult choice between sacrificing their physical health and sacrificing their mental health.
Breathe was co-designed with members of the transgender community throughout the entire development process. Initial interviews revealed that taking regular breaks from binding can make it safer, however, wearers often lack the time and privacy to do so, especially if they're at work or school.
Breathe makes the process of taking breaks more convenient and dignified. It is fitted with smart memory materials which allow the garment to expand when a small electric current is passed through it. This subtle change in tightness reduces the strain on the wearer’s body giving them space to breathe easily and take a break without needing to find a private space.
Breathe is battery-operated and controlled using a small remote or app, allowing the user to take breaks as and when they choose. The binder is machine washable, has flat seaming and includes mesh panels to make the product breathable and keep the user cool. It is also designed to be movement-sensitive, so should the user wish to participate in sport, the garment will automatically loosen for them if the user enables this setting.
Breathe hopes to make the process of binding dignified and safe. Some binder wearers find the experience so painful they feel pressured into getting top surgery (i.e. breast removal). Breathe could present an alternative choice for these individuals, giving them time to make this decision without pain playing a factor.