Wear it, sleep on it...the shawl that may save your life

Wear it, sleep on it...the shawl that may save your life
Interclo co-founder Mateen Kirmani using the Survival Plus Clothing-aid as a mat and as a shawl.

Imagine a piece of clothing that can be used as a sleeping bag, a shawl to keep warm or a floor mat in the event of a natural disaster.

Singapore-based start-up company Interclo spent around two years developing an outfit with a variety of uses, especially for people stricken by disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons.

Co-founder Mateen Kirmani, 30, a Bahrain-born Singaporean, hopes to work with relief organisations to address the issues they face with donated clothing.

"Survivors escape with nothing but the clothes on their backs," he said. "They wait weeks for donated clothing to arrive but the clothes may not be culturally or climatically appropriate."

To better understand the needs of disaster survivors, he and Toronto-based business partner Nabeela Ahsan, 38, consulted relief workers and survivors about the outfit, which they named the Survival Plus Clothing-aid.

In January, Mr Kirmani visited Kashmir in India, where earthquake survivors tested a prototype. A detachable pocket to store food rations and water was added, as well as a see-through pocket for identity documents.

The red knee-length garment has a flannel-fleece interior and its exterior is made of a windproof, waterproof fabric. It comes with a torchlight, whistle and microchip that can track the location of its wearer. It is meant for temperatures between 0 and 20 deg C but versions for sub-zero and tropical climates are also in the works, said Mr Kirmani, a National University of Singapore business graduate.

The idea came to Ms Ahsan in January 2011 as she was packing donated winter clothes for earthquake victims in tropical Haiti. "I was packaging leftover Christmas dresses, sequinned sweaters and high heels," she said.

She began researching clothing aid and, along with Mr Kirmani, registered Interclo last year. In April they received a grant of $50,000 from the Action Community for Entrepreneurship.

Mr Kirmani has pitched the product to various organisations. Though no agreements have been made yet, non-profit organisation Aidmatrix - which manages supply chains for humanitarian relief - has expressed interest.

Mr Nathaniel Forbes, a partner of Aidmatrix in Asia, said: "The reason it's a good idea is the same reason school uniforms are a good idea. In order to avoid feelings of injured pride, envy or jealousy, schools insist that students wear the same clothes. The same thinking applies for survivors."

mellinjm@sph.com.sg


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