Editor's Note: Tune in to CNN Saturday, June 1, at 2:30 pm ET to see "The Next List's" 15-minute profile of Francesco Clark.
Madonna and Michelle Obama are self-proclaimed fans. Jane Larkworthy at W Magazine calls it simply “divine.” And Harper’s Bazaar’s Alexandra Parnass says it’s the most innovative skin-care line she’s ever seen.
It's Clark’s Botanicals, which has quickly developed a cult following, particularly among the fashion elite, since its launch in 2005. The secret, according to founder Francesco Clark, is Jasmine Absolute, a blend of essential oils found in all his products. But for some, Clark's unique entry into the world of beauty is at least part of the draw.
This Saturday, June 1, marks the 11th anniversary of the accident that would forever change Clark’s life. He was just 24, enjoying the first night of a summer rental on Long Island, when he decided to take a late-night dip.
“The second I dove in,” he says, “I realized I dove into the shallow end of the pool.”
Francesco was paralyzed from the shoulders down. “You’ll never move your arms,” doctors told him. “Don’t even think about your legs. Don’t even bother.”
Clark never accepted his diagnosis. Not truly. But it wasn’t until his hero, actor-turned-disabled activist Christopher Reeve, passed away that he decided to take full responsibility for his recovery. And for the first time since his accident, Clark looked in a mirror. “I didn’t look like myself.”
One of the side effects of his spinal-cord injury was he could no longer sweat. “I had acne everywhere, but it was unreactive to any $500 cream, $3 cream, prescriptions, over-the-counter," he said. "Nothing worked.”
Eager to reclaim the friends and colleagues he’d neglected since his injury, he turned to his father, a doctor trained in both homeopathy and Western medicine.
After setting up a lab in the kitchen, Clark and his father investigated 78 botanical ingredients before landing on Jasmine Absolute, the unique blend of essential oils that solved Francesco’s skin problems. Today it’s used throughout the Clark’s Botanicals skincare line, sold in stores from New York to Hong Kong.
But far more important than the line’s success is the role it’s played in Clark’s recovery.
"It was the first time I saw the power of the beauty industry," he said. "A lot of people think it's just about the way you look. For me, it's about the way I felt."
Bolstered by the renewed sense of purpose his company has given him - and his aggressive pursuit of spinal-cord injury treatments - Clark has defied his doctors’ diagnosis. He now has partial use of his arms, wrists and hands. And as his company continues to grow, so do his dreams.
“You know, I’m very impatient and I want to do more," he said. "I want to be more independent, using my hands. And I plan to walk again in the next three to five years.”
Editor’s note: Diana Eng is a fashion designer and self-described geek who blends fashion and technology in surprising ways. Watch Diana’s full profile this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on CNN’s “The Next List.”
By Diana Eng, Special to CNN
New York Fashion Week has just wrapped up. It's an event that reminds me twice a year of the moment I knew I was meant to be a fashion designer (as opposed to a computer programmer or electrical engineer).
The first time I attended Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was for the Project Runway, season two show at Bryant Park. I sat in the front row and felt like royalty as a bunch of reporters came up to ask me questions; “Do you know how lucky you are to be sitting in the front row?” “Is this the best day of your life?” “Who do you think will win?” “Tell me a secret about the show without violating your contract.”
I was still trying to get over the fact that I was actually at a fashion week show. Debra Messing walked by and said “Hi Diana” and I was like, “OMG, Debra Messing, you know my name!”
And then two men came out and removed the plastic covering the runway, the lights started to dim and there was finally a hush. It was like unwrapping a present. The show was about to start and I was filled with excitement, pride and anticipation. At that moment there were so many possibilities, anything could come down the runway. I thought, “I am so excited to be a fashion designer!”
Not everyone can relate the rush of fashion week, but we all have a personal relationship with the things we wear. They are our second skin. When someone sees us for the first time, our style conveys the first impressions about our personality.
Clothing can also say a lot about the world around us. In the 19th century, women would have conveyed their personal style with hoop skirts and bustles made possible by new advances in steel making. We’ve made many technological advancements since the Bessemer process. In the 21st century, what will your fashion say about you?
I like my fashion designs to make people stop and think twice. And I think that, like the hoop skirts of the 19th century, today’s technology can lead to new looks.
Using a laser cutter I am able to distress t-shirts in lace patterns, adding a delicate touch to an otherwise rugged style. I create scarves with snowflakes that appear and grow in cold weather. I play with electronics - LEDs, electroluminescent wire, microcontrollers - to make clothing that reacts to sound and motion. I work with technicians to program fully fashioned (3D) knitting machines to automatically knit lace created by the Fibonacci number sequence.
I’m excited to see what possibilities the next generation of designers will come up with. I’ve had the privilege of teaching the Click@MoMA: Wearable Technology class for high school students through Eyebeam. My class toured the Museum of Modern Art to view paintings by Picasso and Mondrian, and we discussed how shapes could augment the human body. Then the students built inflatable clothing to augment their bodies. We viewed Monet’s Water Lilies to see how Impressionist artists used color and texture to express different seasons and moods. The students created videos to project images on to dresses so that the dresses could portray different moods. Today’s teens have never lived without the Internet or cell phones. As technology becomes a bigger part of our world, tomorrow’s designers will need a greater understanding of science to create relevant designs.
It doesn’t matter how many fashion shows I attend, I still feel the same thrill when they peel back the plastic to start the show. Fashion has infinite possibilities and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
Editor’s note: Diana Eng is a fashion designer and technologist who gets her inspiration from math, science and nature. Watch a full profile of Diana Eng this Sunday at 2:30p ET (all-new time!) only on CNN.
Diana Eng’s mission is to bring innovation to the fashion world, and she’s doing it with some very unlikely tools.
Best known for her role on the second season of "Project Runway," Eng creates fashion and accessories that combine cutting-edge technology with design concepts from nature and science.
“I like to look at technology, math and science and how to integrate it into fashion designs,”says the New York-based designer. Eng has knitted scarves using the formula from the Fibonacci code as well as thermochromic scarves which change color with the temperature. She also uses laser cutters to design lace patterns and distressed T-shirts.
The composition of flower cells has inspired her designs and help them keep structural integrity.
“I like to make fashion and accessories that tell a story,” says Eng. “The story usually comes to me while I’m designing. And it can take me two or three years to design something, because I’m carefully gathering little bits and pieces of the story together, to create my design.”
Eng is also one of the founding members of a Brooklyn-based hack space called NYC Resistor. In an unassuming warehouse, she and 30 other members with a variety of backgrounds meet to learn, make things and share ideas.
“They have a whole bunch of electronics there so I feel like whatever I’m doing, whatever technical development (I want) inside of things, I’ll go to NYC Resistor,” she says.
Eng says she wants people to enjoy not only her fashions but the thinking behind the product.
“I’m really interested in making people think differently about things,” she says. “I feel like it’s really teaching people to look at materials that already exist and think about how it can change how we live our lives and how we can create.”
By Doug Gross, CNN
Hey, cyclists! Want to look more stylish while riding and still avoid the inconvenience of a cracked skull?
Then a pair of Swedish designers have got just the helmet for you - provided you're willing to fork over about $600 and aren't afraid of looking a little like a deployed airbag when you fall.
The newly released Hovding (no, Americans, that's not a futon from Ikea) is billed as The Invisible Bicycle Helmet. Begun in 2005 as a project for a master's-level industrial design course, the blow-up helmet is housed in a pouch that, when wrapped around your neck, looks a little like a puffed-up ski-jacket collar. FULL POST
By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - Forget Rick Moranis glasses, starchy button-ups and pocket protectors.
Meet the new generation at NASA: Bobak Ferdowsi, better known as "Mohawk Guy." Ferdowsi was spotted wearing a red-and-black mohawk with yellow stars dyed on the sides of his head during the U.S. space agency's overnight landing of its Mars rover, "Curiosity."
The Internet quickly turned him into a meme, superimposing text like "The Mohawk That Landed a Rover on Mars" and "Becomes an Internet sensation ... Too busy landing a robot on Mars to notice" over his images.
In case you'd forgotten, here's what the old guard at NASA looked like: FULL POST
By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - If you take Adam Harvey's advice, here's what you might wanna wear to a party this weekend: A funny hat, asymmetrical glasses, a tuft of hair that dangles off your nose bridge and, most likely, a black-and-white triangle taped to your cheekbone. Optional: Cubic makeup patterns all around your eyes.
All of these otherworldly fashion accessories - which could leave a person looking kind of like an opulent villain from "The Hunger Games" - have a singular goal: to stop your face from being detected by cameras and computers. Called CV Dazzle (short for "computer vision dazzle;" more on the name later), Harvey's project is a provocative and largely theoretical response to the rise of surveillance cameras on street corners and face-detecting technology that's been incorporated into social networking sites like Facebook and Flickr.
If you employ these techniques, Harvey, 30, hopes computers won't even know you have a face:
I don’t want to be unrealistic about it. It’s a pretty conceptual project but it seems to touch on a subject that people are still trying to figure out, which is how to adapt to living in surveillance societies, where not only are you being watched by government surveillance but by citizen surveillance and social-media-type surveillance. FULL POST
By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - Google on Wednesday unveiled something really future-y: Glasses that display digital info on top of the real world.
The prototype glasses project all kinds of information - walking directions, instant messages, phone calls, weather info, calendar reminders and the location of your friends - on the world all around you.
That probably sounds pretty bizarre. So, first, check out Google's vision of how this will look: FULL POST
By David Goldman, CNNMoney
Siri is about to get one-upped by Google.
The company on Wednesday unveiled a long-rumored concept called "Project Glass," which takes all the functionality of a smartphone and places it into a wearable device that resembles eyeglasses.
The see-through lens could display everything from text messages to maps to reminders. They may be capable of showing video chats, providing turn-by-turn directions, taking photos and recording notes - all through simple voice commands, according to a concept video produced by the company and released on YouTube.
By Mark Milian, CNN
(CNN) - The U.S. Army has been working for about two years on outfitting its soldiers with smartphones, but one obstacle to this technological upgrade likely will be familiar to anybody who has tried to operate a touchscreen phone in the winter:
Smartphones and gloves do not get along.
Rather than putting government money toward developing a new type of glove, the Army went on a little shopping spree. If the government is coming late to smartphones, and buying those from stores instead of building them, then surely someone must have solved this problem.
They aren't mainstream yet, but several companies indeed sell gloves that let the wearer operate a touchscreen without taking them off. And as more people discover the limits of their Android companions on a snowy day, these types of gloves could take off. FULL POST