The Ajrakh jacket (CoVest), the first COVID-19 smart clothing made in India?

Former professor at the National Institute of Design teams up with artisans to craft a jacket that can help one move around without much hassle during the pandemic  

Published: Thursday 30 July 2020

“Soon after the government announced the countrywide lockdown, I realised that the COVID-19 pandemic was not going to get over anytime soon. My first worry was how to ensure the necessary physical distancing,” recalls Somesh Singh, co-founder of Crafts Village in Delhi.

“After all, no one is visually trained to maintain the minimum distance of two metres around them from all sides. Besides, stepping out of the house requires complete alteration of behaviour, right from wearing a mask to keeping it at a place so that it does not infect other belongings,” he adds.

Over the next one-and-a-half months, the former head of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, used his skills and experience to craft a vest, which he claims can help people move around and carry out their day-to-day activities without much hassle.

The garment is named “Covest”. It has an in-built mask, sensors to ensure social distancing, an attached thermometer and magic sanitisation pockets. Covest is powered by batteries, which remains embedded in the garment and can be operated with the help of buttons that act as switches and seams that act as circuits.

“Switch on the sensors when you are in a crowded place. It will create a two-metre safe boundary around you and sound an alarm if someone invades that boundary. This not only helps the person wearing the vest but also makes others conscious of maintaining distance,” says Singh.

To ensure that the mask, keys, gloves and even mobile phone remain free of germs, including viruses, the pockets are equipped with devices that emit ultraviolet light, at the wavelength of 260 nanometres that are known to have germicidal effect.

“Simply slide in the keys or the mask into the pocket and close the flap button. The device will start emitting the UV rays and sanitise all the products in just 30 seconds,” Singh says.

“We have lined the pockets with absorbing materials to ensure that the UV radiation does not come in contact with the body. The radiation supply gets cut off as soon as you open the flap,” adds Singh, who trained scientists at the Defence Research and Development Organisation in 2008 on clothing with various in-built features.  

Many times people forget to carry their masks while stepping out, so the vest has a mask built inside the collar. Singh claims that the four-layer mask, prepared with woven and non-woven materials, offers 99.4 per cent protection from the COVID-19 causing virus. 

Though Singh prepared the initial prototype of the product using cement fabric, that has a leather look, the final product uses the fabric with Ajrakh designs (block printing), especially prepared by Abdul Jabbar Khatri of Bhuj, Gujarat, who has won several awards from the World Crafts Council and Unesco for the traditional form of handicraft. Some 30 artisans are now engaged in preparing the product, which costs more than Rs 4,999.

Once the pandemic is over, Singh says, the product can help those who need navigation support, particularly the visually impaired, to avoid collisions.

Reporting by Snigdha Das

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