The Lab Coat Project - Designed By 1000 Researchers
I think we can create the best lab coat in the world, together.
Why should we accept ill-fitting, boring, non-functional and potentially unsafe lab coats as the norm when we're spending a large fraction of our lives in them doing invaluable research for the world?
The Lab Coat Project is using a data-driven approach, crowdsourced from over 1000 STEM researchers like YOU, to design a lab coat at an affordable price that you can look and feel great in.
As featured in:
Why we need this - from the founder
When I started in my lab for grad school, I was told “grab a lab coat out of that pile that you like best”. I found an XL (I’m a M) and later upgraded to a L when someone graduated the next year. I was swimming in a chemical-stained white-ish lab coat designed for no specific purpose other than to loosely look like a scientist.
The wide drooping cuffs caused me to knock over and shatter glass graduated cylinders in the cramped fume hood on multiple occasions, costing me hours of lab time in clean-up. My pens and tweezers didn’t have a good home in the coat so in my 3-room lab they were rarely within arm’s reach. My phone would swing around wildly in the lower front pocket, so I left it on the counter and relied on Bluetooth to listen to music which cut out if I ventured too far to the equipment on the other side of the wall.
Worst of all, I just never felt “good” wearing it, so most of the time I just didn’t. It was a self-imposed safety hazard caused by poor design. I honestly never even looked for a new lab coat online because I didn’t know better options were available and didn’t want to “waste” my lab’s money on what seemed like a luxury. But if it costs less than a jar of common lab chemicals, is it really “expensive” for something that protects you daily for years and influences your happiness and productivity?
You deserve better. Your happiness, productivity and safety depend on it. I don't want anyone else to have the experience I had, but I know a lot of you are living that right now. The outpouring of support has been enormous and the personal comments in the data have nearly brought me to tears. I will put in the work to fix this, put up the money to develop it, and with your help we can set a new standard for looking and feeling great in your laboratory.
The Lab Coat project will use data-driven design crowdsourced from real researchers to create a lab coat that rivals “designer” coats for physicians but is tailored toward the needs of scientists - and for less than $50.
Popular designer lab coats and scrubs sell for over $100 but cost less than $20 to make (we know their suppliers). You’re paying for a lot of advertising, modeling photos and a luxury brand.
The Lab Coat Project will publish all pricing and margin so you can see the value you're getting. By replacing the big advertising budget with word-of-mouth, we can keep the costs to less than half the premium clinical lab coats without sacrificing quality.
Why are lab coats white?
A quick Google search will come up with all kinds of answers ranging from cleanliness to status symbols. They are easier to bleach and cheaper to make, but they also limit self-expression and contribute to the perception of inaccessibility of certain professions.
Doctors and others in clinical settings overwhelmingly wear white lab coats out of tradition. Some clinical professions have abandoned white coats altogether because studies have shown they can cause anxiety in patients.
But if you’re a chemist, microbiologist, engineer, or anything non-clinical, you can choose any color you want! Unfortunately, only a few colors like blue and black are easy to find (for now). If you could design your own lab coat, what color would you choose? Let us know below!
Most of our respondents come from academia: 33% graduate students, 22% undergraduates, and 8% post-docs. This group often has the hardest time with lab coats because funding is tight and safety is not well-regulated. This is the segment we’re most likely to impact with an affordable, direct-sale lab coat.
We also had a sizeable response from industrial professionals and lab technicians. They had a lot of great feedback since they are often forced to wear incredibly standardized lab coats purchased with supply/laundering contracts. Their needs are specialized and harder for us to serve because of those existing wholesale contracts. We hope the initial success will help us get into wholesale business to serve these industry professionals in the future.
We had slightly more responses from females than males, and also were happy to have some representation from non-binary researchers. The fit data we show will be grouped into two “body types”, representing traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine builds. We plan for our “men’s” cut to have more room in the shoulders, while our “women’s” cut will flare more at the hips.
Chemists and Biologists are well-represented
The most important segregation of the data is in the type of work the individual does. Instead of separating by field, which can range widely in type of work, we focused on the lab environment in which they use lab coats. The two biggest categories are what we’ll call “Wet Bio” and “Wet Chem”, followed by “Medical” and then several other varied types of work generally not involving hazardous liquid chemicals.
Our data is heavily skewed toward wet chemistry and wet bio/life science work. These are the fields we originally had in mind and are happy to start our journey there. We aren’t trying to create a lab coat for physicians, but hope that it can be used for some clinical research where appropriate.
How They chose their lab coats
“Go pick a lab coat out of that box” tends to be a common phrase on the first day in the lab. It leads to all kinds of problems and frustrations in fit and function. Half of our respondents didn’t really get a choice, or were never encouraged to go out and find the best lab coat for them. 30% were at least able to choose a size through their lab’s pre-established sourcing channels, and only 10% went out and found one they would love.
We want that 10% to turn into that 50%. To do that, we need The Lab Coat Project to grow by word-of-mouth. Let your colleagues know they do have a choice, and we are keeping that choice affordable for an individual to buy if necessary.
How their lab coats were purchased
Starting this effort, we were concerned individuals may not even be able to purchase our new lab coat due to rules restricting them to their existing wholesale contracts. It would be nearly impossible for a small company like ours to get into any of those contracts without a track record of success in lab coats (kind of like when all your entry-level job options require “5 years’ experience”).
Thankfully, only 43% of our respondents are forced to use their institutional suppliers. This gives us hope that we can perfect the lab coat and build up testimonials with individuals before approaching these wholesale distributors later on.
READ THE ARTICLE: 10 KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE SURVEY
We published an article with 10 key takeaways from the 1000 respondents including quotes about frustrations and data on fit by gender and size. It also includes graphs and figures we would love you to share with your friends and colleagues.
read the article: Effects on mental health of poorly designed lab coats
The collective voice of the women in our survey shows they are disproportionally affected by the “unisex” or “male-first” approach to lab coat design. The article highlights over 20 quotes from women whose daily professionalism and self-confidence is impacted by their ill-fitting lab coat.
We first made prototypes through a local seamstress who works for a major fashion brand. This helped us nail the placement of the features like pockets, loops, and the belt.
We got our first manufacturing samples in the summer of 2022. It takes several rounds for the factory to get it just right. These will be used for our Beta testing program in March 2023 to ensure the sizing is correct and our new features work as intended.
The first run of lab coats is a minimum of 2000 total. This might cost us up to $40,000 up front. So, we'll run a pre-order campaign to cover as much of that cost as possible. Stay tuned to our email list and social media for updates!
FAQs about the launch
YES! We love data, and more of it will help nail the sizing and give us ideas for new versions to make in the future.
Prototyping is starting in May 2022. We won't launch it until we really believe in it. That could be around the fall of 2023 if things go smoothly!
Sure! Leave your email and check the box for updates in the survey, or sign up for our monthly resource email below. We'll also post small updates on our social media accounts (@geniuslabgear).
You're amazing! For this project to succeed, we need to grow support without advertising costs. The two best things you can do are:
1) Link to this page from your website or tell your favorite blogger or university newspaper to get in touch about running a story. These help the page show up in Google when others are searching for lab coats.
2) Share this page on your social media pages, with a link if possible, or else with tagging us @geniuslabgear!
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