Clothes designed to counter the surveillance state
Set to launch next week in London as part of a collaborative project with fashion designer Johanna Bloomfield, Harvey’s line of “Stealth Wear” clothing includes an “anti-drone hoodie” that uses metalized material designed to counter thermal imaging used by drones to spot people on the ground. He’s also created a cellphone pouch made of a special “signal attenuating fabric.” The pocket blocks your phone signal so that it can’t be tracked or intercepted by devices like the covert “Stingray” tool used by law enforcement agencies like the FBI. And if that’s not enough, Harvey has also made what he calls an “XX-Shirt,” which uses material designed to “protect your heart from X-ray radiation.”
The 31-year-old artist, who studied mechanical engineering as an undergrad at Penn State, says the increased use of military surveillance technologies in civilian environments inspired him to create the clothing line. “Military technology is coming home from the war,” he tells me, referring to the growing use of spy drones across the United States. “These pieces are designed to live with it, to cope with it—to live in a world where surveillance is happening all the time.”
The clothing range, which also includes an “anti-drone scarf,” is primarily intended to spark a dialogue about the rapid advance of surveillance across society. Though they are pieces of concept art, at the same time they do have a genuine practical use and are being manufactured for public sale. Harvey hasn’t pinned down exactly what the cost of the garments will be yet—and he admits they’re not likely to be cheap, due to the expensive materials involved. But it doesn’t take a genius to predict that activists and other privacy-conscious individuals will be among his first customers. The “fashionably paranoid market” is his target demographic, Harvey jokes.