Certain rooms in your house have bad wifi; when driving through a tunnel, you sometimes lose your phone connection; and if your credit cards are pressed closely together, they often don’t work. These are just a few examples of how our surroundings can influence the accessibility of modern technologies. While they're often annoying, there's also an unexpected upside to all this—these kind of barriers can also protect us from Big Brother's all-seeing eye. At least, that's the idea behind the coats and bags of the Dutch design initiative, KOVR.
The brand was founded by costume and performance artist Marcha Schagen and graphic designer Leon Baauw. About a year ago, they started designing a range of products interlaced with a metalliferous fabric that renders the computer chips in your bank and identification cards unreadable and your phone untraceable.
The product is the result of a research project by Baauw that focuses on how surveillance systems monitor people and their behavior. “Think about generic camera surveillance, but also about systems that are less visible, like microphones in trams that can record conversations,” Baauw explains to The Creators Project. During his research, he also found out about so-called RFID and NFC-chips; computer chips the size of a grain of rice that will send and receive information on their own when placed in the right proximity of a source. “These computer chips are used in passports, identifications cards and bank cards, but also in certain pieces of clothing. For instance, I managed to scan and read my own identification card using nothing more than a simple app on my phone. Many people are not aware of the big amount of information they are carrying around on a day-to-day basis.”
Baauw asked Schagen to help him develop a product that closes this data breach. After many hours experimenting with metalliferous fabrics, they succeeded in creating a coat and bag that helps shield your data from the prying eyes of companies and hackers alike. “I was looking for materials that could simulate the effect of the Faraday Cage, as a system that can block signals,” tells Schagen. “The next challenge was to create a lightweight and wearable product.” On the outside of the coat and the bag, she added special pockets where you can safely place your phone if you do want to be reachable.
This is an important aim of the project; KOVR is quick to point out it doesn’t want to turn itself against new trends or developments. “After all, the convenience that comes with technological progress is indispensable,” Baauw adds. Instead, the initiative wants to return agency to the individual, so people can take their privacy into their own hands—literally. “People often say they have nothing to hide, that they are more than willing to trade their privacy for sharpened safety measures. But this is nonsense; everyone has something to hide. People have multiple facets to their personality, and that is completely normal. Secrets shape a person into who he is and who he wants to be.”
If you want to find out more about KOVR, have a look at their website.
Photography by Suzanne Waijers
Models: Rasheed Vlijter & Yvonne van de Meerendonk
Make-up artist: Nadia van der Sloot
A version of this article originally appeared on The Creators Project Netherlands.