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Flash Back Is A Photobomb-Enhancing, Paparazzi-Busting Clothing Innovation

The folks at Betabrand have designed a line of threads to destroy any Instagram moment or paparazzi payday.

What if there was a way to guarantee your photobomb was, well, the bomb, and foil all those paparazzi chasing you when you exit the club?

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Enter the ever-clever and innovative folks at Betabrand. The creators of disco wear, a line of apparel in which everything from a hoodie and sweats to a dress is made of a fabric that–you guessed it–mimics the mirror effect of a disco ball, comes a capsule collection of clothing called Flash Back that is designed to look as innocuous as a pale grey garment can be under regular light. Try to take a photo of it and everything changes.

The reflective fabric reacts to a camera flash by turning it bright white. Remember how Pharrell described his shorts and jacket combo to Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet before the Grammys? Paparazzi be warned, take a photo and watch the fabric steal the show.

Though Pharrell has long been lauded for leveraging the pulse of innovation and fashion (outsized Smokey the Bear hat anyone), it turns out that Chris Holmes, the music producer and DJ best known for revving up the crowds during Paul McCartney’s world tours is the one getting the technofabric into the hands of consumers.

An owner of Betabrand’s disco wear and fan of shoes with reflective strips, Holmes noticed how these garments would obscure most of what was around him in photographs. “While I wasn’t thrilled that many of these photos were ruined, it gave me an epiphany: Perhaps I could use this technology for a greater purpose–like making paparazzi photos worthless,” he writes on Betabrand’s site.

From there, it was a collaborative leap to design and manufacture a prototype collection that ranges from a suit jacket (for $382.40) to a scarf ($66.30) and put it up for sale on Betabrand’s crowdsourcing platform Think Tank.

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Betabrand’s lead designer Steven Wheeler, creator of the company’s “gay jeans” explains that the highly reflective properties of the fabric come from millions of tiny glass spheres that are bonded to the outer surface.

Originally developed for safety applications such as road signs or reflective stripes on jackets and hats to render people and objects more visible in the dark, Wheeler notes that its functionality comes from microscopic glass beads which act as lenses that take the incoming light and reflect it back at precisely the same angle from which it came in.

Wheeler explains, “Compared to bright neon, metallic, or white colored surfaces, which bounce and scatter light in every direction, this reflective material is many times more efficient at bouncing light back to the source of illumination.” he adds, “In our case, the flash from a camera or smartphone.” 


Thanks to the falling cost of this particular material, Wheeler says it’s now easier to use more of it and experiment with larger applications. He says the fabric is sourced from China, but the production of the garments that rise to the top of the crowdsourcing heap could be produced at smaller, local factories in San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Betabrand’s cofounder Chris Lindland is optimistic that the techno-clothes will be in demand. “Seems like a natural fit for our disco wear customers who’ve taken the electronic dance music scene by storm,” he tells Co.Create. Safety applications notwithstanding, Lindland says, “We’ve redirected it to the larger show-off demographic. In short, these products are designed to make you the center of attention of your Instagram universe.”

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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