Saul Griffith and Jonathan Bachrach's algorithmically-designed "DARPA Hoodie"

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Several years ago, Otherlab's Jonathan Bachrach and Saul Griffith, former BB guestblogger and MacArthur "Genius" received a DARPA grant to develop algorithms that convert 3D objects into 2D pattern pieces. Those pieces can then be fabricated out of myriad materials and fastened together to make the 3D object. While DARPA is a defense department outfit, Saul and Jonathan were encouraged to find other non-defense uses for their futuristic design/manufacturing tech. Of course, they had lots of fun doing just that. Last year, Saul showed me some ingenious snap-together kids toys they had prototyped. And now, they've teamed up with Betabrand to apply their algorithm to clothing, such as this new "DARPA Hoodie." From an interview with Bachrach:
Darpahoodi My end-to-end software tool chain takes 3D surface files and produces 2D vector files with nested flat parts with all the necessary part numbers, bend lines, angles and joinery ready to cut and easy to assemble. The bend and joinery mechanisms are completely customizable for the particular material type and desired look such as pop rivets, welded seams, and press fit.

The tool creates the opportunity for greatly lowering the time of manufacturing and for creating a unique algorithmic design quality.

The 2D panels are created based on a customizable goodness measure that first ensures that panels are flattenable with low distortion and from there guides the formation of panels towards a user’s desired shape, for example, equal sized, fewest number, etc.

We have previously applied this algorithm towards making a better t-shirt and more recently have been working with Betabrand on making a hoodie.

For clothing, the automatic panelizer opens up the possibility for custom clothing and better fits for stiffer materials.

The hoody was created algorithmically from a 3D triangular mesh for an average six foot male, downsampled to 100 triangles, deconstructed into 12 panels of high grade nylon, and finally sewn together with externally visible red thread.

DARPA Hoodie


  1. tbh I find it kind of sickening that so much of the funding for new, interesting things has to come from our bloated defense/industrial complex.

  2. Cool! I see military industrial complex fashion shows. Oh, wait, didn’t we already have that with Iraq and all the embedded journalists.

  3. Wow, I love this. Volcom always used to have irregularly-cut outerwear that really stood out. Their brand has gotten really diluted and that aesthetic has taken off in other directions.

    This has reason behind itself though. If only they had better colourways to the paneling. Black with red stitching is rather yawn. As an industrial designer I totally eat stuff like this up!

  4. Isn’t creating relationships between 3D objects and 2D pattern pieces what seamstresses and tailors have been doing for centuries?

    1. Pattern makers do this. Seamstresses sew from the 2-D patterns. Tailors typically draft their own, made to measure. But yes, we have a documented history of drafting patterns like this for 500 years or so. We even have software to do it; CAD was first tested in the garment industry. From there it went into aviation and automobiles. I fail to understand how this is any different from what we’re already doing. Were any taxpayer dollars injured in the course of generating this redundant effort?

      For that matter, I’d have to ask the same of Aitor Throup. I’ve been drafting my patterns using the concepts he claims “defy” tradition for nearly 30 years. People who don’t shop around enough often come to the conclusion they’ve invented something wholly new when it’s more likely said concepts exist in plenitude. Still, I give them credit for exercising brain power in their reinventing-the-wheel adventure. It must have been fun and challenging to do it.

      Fwiw, I like the styling of this hoodie; particularly the squared neckline and offside zipper insertion. Sleeve cap needs a bit of work tho, raising it could eliminate the folding crease running down to the inside of the elbow -provided the sleeve skew were also corrected.

      1. Kathleen, your last paragraph answers your first one. Tailors and seamstresses design and alter dimensions based on human dimensions and usage needs.

        The design, manufacturing and specification is entirely derived from a computer, using resolution and packing formulas. It’s the backwards process from which tradition and craft have worked. It defines a process, product and user in a completely different manner. It may not be the most logical way of designing something, but it is different.

  5. I don’t necessarily think it’s true that you need military funding for this sort of thing – Aitor Throup is a designer who has been exploring similar territory with vastly superior results.

    You can see the description and photos of his process for creating his ‘Modular Anatomy’ pieces at the Stone Island site here:

    As well, a project he did called ‘The Funeral of New Orleans’ which explores the opportunities modular clothing / paneling provides for artistic expression:

    I’m excited to see what this software can be used for in the hands of some ‘real’ clothing designers because the ‘DARPA Hoodie’ isn’t very impressive in any sense – artistically or technically (I’d say here the process is more interesting than the result so far).

  6. While I’m sure the tech is very interesting and can be used to do wonderful things, that hoodie is just ugly as sin. It looks like a trash bag with highlights.

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