Pioneered by a former North Face exec and a Stanford energy professor, LifeLabs is using the body’s own infrared radiation and physics in its development of material solutions for a changing world.
The field of textile innovation is seeing renewed interest, with the fashion industry prioritizing biodegradable materials and regenerative farming methods. However, textile innovation is also centering on solutions that harness the heat of the body to create a meaningful impact on the environment. This is done through specific material combinations made to reduce the reliance on energy-intensive heating and cooling appliances.
LifeLabs’ MegaWarm jacket, launched in December, has the highest CLO rating of any garment in the world, at 9.25, according to the company. CLO is a value that describes the degree of insulation provided by an article of clothing, with a CLO value of 1 equal to the amount of clothing required by a resting human to maintain thermal comfort at a room temperature of 71 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). The ability to retain comfortable body temperatures outside of the house while wearing the jacket would also affect how much heating an individual would require on their return inside, essentially decreasing their need for manufactured home heating.
Comparably, the Canada Goose Snow Mantra jacket has a CLO score of 6.70, and The North Face Summit AMK L6 Parka has a CLO score of 6.06.
“Because everyone is emitting infrared radiation and heat, if you can control the IR, then you can control warming.” The material construction of WarmLife functions as two layers, said Scott Mellin, CEO of LifeLabs: There’s an outer fabric and a second, metallic layer that reflects body heat back. “This maintains all the stretch, porosity and breathability of the fabric, but it reflects all of your IR and heat back to you, reducing your insulation needs by up to 30%.” The jacket is available in men’s and women’s sizes XS-XL, and sells for $693 on LifeLabs.design.
LifeLabs was founded in 2020 by Professor Yi Cui, director of Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, who has written more than 500 research publications on energy conservation and has 50 patent applications. CEO Scott Mellin was previously at North Face as their global vp, where he developed the brand’s Futurelight collection based on both breathable and waterproof outerwear. While a lot of material innovation is focused on material composition, Lifelabs is focused on patented textiles that prioritize performance and reduce energy use. Ultimately, if this technology becomes more widely available, it could inform a new generation of energy-conserving garments that currently are not on the market.
“Remarkably light for its scale and coverage, the MegaWarm Jacket defies common standards for insulated apparel,” said Dr. Cui. “Our unique WarmLife technology uses less than a paper clip’s worth of aluminum to reflect 100% of your radiant body heat back onto your skin using 30% less material.”
As global warming is affecting the planet, clothing can play an important role in reducing the reliance on air conditioners that are energy-intensive. According to the International Energy Association, air conditioner use is a climate change blindspot, with the use of air conditioners and electric fans in buildings accounting for 10% of global energy consumption.
LifeLabs is also innovating with its CoolLife clothing range. The garments, including T-shirts and sleep items, are formulated to reduce the temperature of the body by 4 degrees. “The fabric’s simple molecular structure allows 100% of your infrared radiation to radiate through the fabric and 100% of your heat to dissipate through,” said Mellin. “In fact, the chemistry of the polymer actually pulls heat off your skin. It feels like changing your thermostat from 72 degrees Fahrenheit to 68. I had testers comment that they stopped using their air conditioning entirely at night.”
There is a 40% chance that global average temperatures will reach 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level within the next five years, according to a new climate update issued by the World Meteorological Organization. As such, demand for such clothing innovations is only set to increase.
U.S.-based LifeLabs is expanding globally over the next 10 months. LifeLabs is also working with a number of undisclosed partners to deliver its proprietary materials to other industries, including automotive and home furnishings.