Lumiton’s smart T-shirt makes wellness wearable

The modern world has a complicated relationship with the sun.

We need it to sustain us, but as humans, we spend our days hiding from it — wearing protective clothing, working long hours indoors, applying sunscreen to block out UV rays.

Gates Hinds and Marco Scipioni saw a problem with that and built a company to help people embrace the positive health benefits of the sun. The result is Lumiton, a wearable technology brand whose debut product is an innovative T-shirt called the SunShift, now available on Kickstarter.

“Our ancestors knew the benefit of light,” Scipioni said. “This product is re-establishing our connection with the sun and optimizing the light coming into our bodies.”

The SunShift does that through what Hinds calls “the original wearable” — a shirt. “We call it light-energized apparel,” adds Hinds.

The co-founders designed the fabric of the shirt by fusing polyester yarn with additives that absorb light and transform it into healthy rays. The fibers filter out harmful UV rays while keeping the fabric—and thus the wearer—cool. And they let in light waves that have a myriad of proven health benefits, including increasing collagen, improving blood circulation, decreasing inflammation and increasing the overall wellness of muscles and organs.

“When you step back and look at all the studies, any cell you give light energy does its function better,” Hinds explained. “Our cells are hardwired to be the chemical engineers, but they can also act as a dual power plant that uses solar and light.”

The duo began working on the concept eight years ago, although they didn’t pursue it as a business venture until 2014. Hinds was practicing law, after graduating from the University of Alabama School of Law. With a background in physics and optics, Scipioni earned his Ph.D. from UNC Charlotte before joining the faculty of Queens University of Charlotte.

When the time came to start building Lumiton in earnest, the co-founders were surprised to find a wealth of resources in North Carolina, with potential partners for the fiber supply and distribution in Greensboro, Raleigh and Statesville. As they evaluated different companies, they set their sights on developing the branding and messaging for the company.

It was during this time they decided to pursue a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign was a wild success, and the co-founders raised their goal of $50,000 in just one week. The campaign will run through October, and Hinds and Scipioni expect to deliver the first SunShift shirts to backers in December.

“We want to take what we’ve learned from Kickstarter and learn what we’re lacking and what partners we need to make this happen — then get it out into the market quickly in a credible and complete way,” Hinds said.

One important takeaway from the campaign was the opportunity to refine and distill their messaging. They have been constantly updating the page and testing language to see what resonates most with potential customers.

Finding the right suppliers and distributors also presented a challenge. The process become longer than the team expected, as the Lumiton vision went far beyond what the typical supplier had done before, integrating complex technology with a practical fabric.

“It took us a long time to navigate the landscape and get in front of the right people,” Hinds said. “One thing I’ve learned in this process — fail fast and move on to the next thing.”

Scipioni also saw the setback as an opportunity — and motivation.

“This was a blessing because it made us hustle more and not give up,” he said. “It’s a human challenge to be able to create the right attitude. If you have the right attitude, it helps you gets things done.”

While they started with T-shirts, there is no end to what wearable products the co-founders could infuse with this technology. They look forward to branching out into children’s clothing, athletic wear (such as compression sleeves), rash guards and more in the near future.

This article was co-written by David Stunja and Lexie Banks.

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