Ultra-Personalized clothing

I monogrammed my hat not with initials, but my unique genetic fingerprint...


Through the entire history of fashion, people have sought to express their own unique and individual message through their clothing. The personalization of a product can take many forms; we explore a new way…

The intricate science of DNA testing and Genome Sequencing has been the preserve of expensive labs with huge resources but recently, it has become possible for anyone to find out their genetic makeup. Every person is built up with unique DNA, including about 20,000 genes, subtly making each person different. Direct-to-consumer gene testing has emerged and is providing regular folks a previously unimaginable insight into the basic building blocks of life, for which they are made. For example, the cost went from 100 million dollars for the first person in 2003 to 100 dollars in 2015.

Genetic Hat with DNA encoded in the thread pattern
The thread pattern in this hat is a direct encoding from the owner’s genetic map.

How it was done:

23andMe.com is a fascinating company which offers this gene testing service. Jason signed up online; receiving a vial and returning it with a saliva sample. They ran it through an array of laboratory steps and automated bio-chem reactions, growing millions of copies of Jason’s DNA then running it through the sequencing operations to eventually find the list of genes. Jason went online and downloaded the 12MB file containing a raw listing of his genes.
Armed with the raw data, it needed to be converted into something which could be mapped onto the clothing. First, the file was run through an algorithm to create an MD5 checksum. This is a one-way function which produces a short, digital fingerprint of the original file. Then the MD5 checksum was converted into Morse code for a sequence of dots and dashes. Each dot and dash was then delicately sewn as a narrow or wide line by Leonora as a design feature along the centre, producing the final result which is the most personalized hat possible; monogrammed not just with initials of his name, but the digital fingerprint of his actual genetic makeup.

The future:

The advances in genetic testing continue at amazing pace so within a few years it is expected that every person will have their genes mapped at birth to check for potential health issues etc., making this data very accessible to people. Also, within a world of ever increasing homogeneity thanks to the mass production of clothing, this may offer a possible mechanism for people to have fun with their expressions of individuality.

The team:

Leonora Ferguson Genetic Hat with DNA encoded in the thread pattern
Leonora Ferguson is an award winning milliner and accessory designer from Ireland who set up her own fashion label in 2011 and has made bespoke pieces featured in publications worldwide.
Jason Ruane Genetic Hat with DNA encoded in the thread pattern
Jason Ruane is a computer programmer, a tech-nerd by all accounts and has founded two software companies.

Jason and Leonora collaborate on projects at the intersection of tech and art. Please do get in touch at Jason@jasonruane.com or leonoraferguson@gmail.com .

Background reference information:

This is the MD5 checksum after processing the genetic listing file:

Converted to Morse code gives:
..-. ..-. -.... ----. .- .- ----. ----. ..... .- ..... .---- .---- ----. ..-. . -... ....- ...-- ..-. ..--- ..... -... ....- . ..... ..-. -.-. --... ...-- ..... ...--

Cost of Gene Sequencing:

First people to have their genes sequenced:

A random GUID, for fun: ed034743-8753-4c3e-bffb-070d530e79cd

- Posted June 2015.