IntelliSkin Athletic Apparel Design to Treat-and Prevent-Injuries
Tim Brown’s foray into the apparel business started out pretty old school—stitching an innovational idea onto fabric with a hotel sewing kit in the living room of his Newport Beach, Calif., home. A surfer turned sports physician, Brown has felt and braced his fair share of muscle injuries. When he says, “I feel your pain,” you know he’s telling the truth.
A frantic phone call from a long-term patient ultimately led Brown to create IntelliSkin, a line of form-fitting athletic apparel.Brown had just returned from Europe after the 1990 Pro Surfing Championship Tour when he picked up a voicemail message from a professional women’s beach volleyball player. She had been anxiously trying to locate him so he could wrap a pre-existing injury with the Specific Proprioceptive Response Taping (S.P.R.T.) system he had invented to compensate for outdated surgical taping techniques.Brown realized that his athletes were becoming co-dependent, unable to perform to their highest potential if Brown were physically unreachable or overbooked. From that day, Brown made it his goal to be the doctor you wouldn’t have to see again.Today, the IntelliSkin line includes more than 48 products, from wetsuits to running shirts, all of which are designed to treat and retrain muscles by gradually reshaping them to improve posture and accelerate injury recovery. And, to the surpise of even Brown, the apparel also doubles as an injury preventative. The June 2011 launch of IntelliSkin’s newest posture-focused lines, Foundation 2.0 and Eve 2.0, coincided with the release of a University of California, Irvine study that reported the competitive athlete-tailored shirt resulted in a complete vanishing of shoulder and elbow injuries in the collegiate volleyball players who sported the gear over the course of two consecutive seasons.IntelliSkin products are currently sold on the company website (www.intelliskin.net) and through health and fitness practitioners.In an interview with California Apparel News Technology Editor Paula Lehman, Brown explains how his technology has athletes standing tall.How did technology play a factor in your first design?The design is based upon the huge success of contemporary functional athletic taping techniques (such as S.P.R.T., Kinesiotapeing, Spider Tech, etc). The design is unique in that it is the first and only apparel that improves your posture and how you move and literally creates a posture workout you can wear.Walk me through the inner-workings of the IntelliSkin shirt’s design as it pertains to its ultimate function.We made the body of the shirt out of [a] Tactel [blend with] 44 percent Lycra. That’s how we get the shirt to conform to the skin so nicely.The panels in the back are made with 11 percent Lycra, and it’s a two-way stretch. So by having the fabric move from a four-way stretch to a two-way stretch, everything gets pulled into the panels. The fabric with less elasticity becomes a “concentration gradient,” meaning it can serve as a central strength for the rest of the garment. That’s what creates the lift in the chest and the instant toning that goes along with that movement. The “business side” [of the shirt] is created when we sew the four-way stretch fabric into the panels. Those panels are placed in very specific anatomical areas where the muscles underneath are classically and predictably weak. Because the panels support those muscles, it creates the “workout that you wear.” I purposely designed with fabrics that would allow you to move. It’s something functional versus a structural support. What does your demographic look like? Is it designed mainly for the kind of athletes you treat?Athletes are our lowest-hanging fruit because those are the people I’ve worked with. We started the new posture shirts, though, because it spreads across all demographics, from the student slouching over video games to grandma or grandpa. We all have a real problem growing in the proper direction. When we’re 4 years old, we move perfectly. Posture isn’t just important for a baseball player throwing a fastball. It’s also for the kid growing up to have a healthy posture.What new uses are you discovering as you get feedback and the product takes different shapes?We’re blown away by the different verticals we’ve seen. A big one is travel, and the person who brought that to our attention was Lance Armstrong. I knew he owned a few of the garments because one of the guys we work with [Peter Park] trains him. I thought it was a practical joke when I picked up the phone one day and he said who he was. But he was in a panic, saying he had just cancelled his flight to a major race and would not leave the States until another one of our shirts was delivered to him.He told me, “I can’t tell you what’s going on, but I can tell you this: I feel energized when I get there if I wear that shirt on the plane versus that classic travel fatigue if I don’t.” It’s literally dollars and cents for these guys when it comes to recovery time. The call from Lance prompted me to look up studies on travel, and I found that whenever we get in a vehicle, be it a plane or a car or a boat, the engine vibration sedates our muscles. Combine that with sitting in that seat with bad posture. Our joints are literally trying to hold us up to overcompensate for our muscles.I’ve heard you were so excited about this new venture that you actually created your very own in-house sewing station. Are you still playing around with that?That’s me being the mother of invention. When I first started out, I would come up with an idea and send it out to get translated by professional sewers. It wasn’t time-efficient because I would start saying to myself, “By the time I get this back, I could have done it three times over and fixed three problems.” So I took out an old hotel sewing kit and taught myself some sewing 101, and they [samples] were not pretty, but they were functional. By the time they reached the production stage, they just needed to be cleaned up. Of course, these days the company has a large staff of much more qualified sewers. If necessary, I’m not afraid to jump in, but I’m glad to say it’s a phase of my life I moved through.