UCLan students challenged to create ‘airport pillow smuggler’

Holidaymakers wishing they could take their own pillow away with them could be about to have their prayers answered after a team of fashion students at UCLan university linked up with a Manchester-based pillow brand.

Levitex is working with the Creative Innovation Zone (CIZ) and the award-winning fashion department at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) as part of a live brief to create a wearable pillow, which would be built into a coat, jacket or some other type of outerwear.

The concept would mean travellers could take their own pillow abroad with them without sacrificing valuable luggage space or having to fork out on expensive hand luggage costs.

And students at the university have already started to produce a range of different designs for the project, which Levitex plans to manufacture and launch in early 2022.

“For years, people have simply put up with rubbish pillows in hotels that are usually old, too big, lumpy or totally flat because it’s never been practical to take a pillow away with you, but we’re aiming to change that,” said Levitex founder and leading sleep posture expert, James Leinhardt.

“Our pillows address real issues like neck pain that comes as a result of people having bad sleep posture and sleeping on a poor-quality lying surface. 

“Think about how many times you or someone you know has come back from a holiday or a few nights away with a stiff neck or shoulders. It’s all down to bad sleep posture and terrible lying surfaces, so we want to make sure people can easily take their pillows away with them to stop that happening.” 

The designs will require students to incorporate Levitex’s innovative polyurethane foam pillow, which comes in four different sizes to suit different body shapes and sleeping positions. 

Students are due to submit their final designs to Levitex and the winning design will be announced in January 2022. 

“Our ambition for this project is to provide people with the chance to travel with a pillow that is designed to optimise the quality of their sleep,” added James. 

“Just like shoes, pillows are not a one size fits all solution. People should be able to take their pillow with them wherever they go and not have to sacrifice their own health and wellbeing just because airlines place strict limits on baggage allowance. The final product we hope to create will be a legal airport pillow smuggler! 

“The Creative Innovation Zone at UCLan works as an interdisciplinary agency to bring together different students and academics to innovate ideas. They facilitated our brief with their highly respected fashion department, it was an obvious choice for us when it came to bringing this new concept to life. Beyond fashion, UCLan have some of the best engineering and bio-mechanics teams and facilities in the country. We’ve worked with them on some very serious projects including evaluating severe stroke positioning, posture interventions for Premier League footballers and mechanical back pain solutions.

“Although this brief is more creative, it is definitely not a gimmick. Through Levitex we’re already working with top professional sports teams and even Team GB stars and the entire ParalympicsGB team took a Levitex pillow with them to the Olympic Games in Tokyo.” 

“The consumer world is moving fast so we’re working with some of best future talent at UCLan to make sure we’re looking to the future, at the same time as educating people about the importance of sleep posture and providing the tools to help them optimise it.” 

Emma Speed, director of the Creative Innovation Zone at UCLan said: “We were delighted to get involved in such a highly creative brief. We’re long-term supporters of Levitex and James’ mission. His passion and expertise around sleep posture is second-to-none and being able to help in this way is a brilliant opportunity for our fashion students to launch a new product into the market. The winning design really could be the next big thing in the outerwear market, combining fashion, sleep and travel for the very first time. 

“CIZ identifies brilliant young minds here at UCLan and ensures they work directly with employers to shape the innovators of the future. Levitex recognises that we’re incubating the designers of the future and it’s amazing for them to be involved in this project.”

The creative brief is not the first time Levitex and UCLan have worked together. The University played a key role in helping James to produce a conscious patient’s Proning System earlier this year that helped hospital-based Covid patients lie on their stomachs more comfortably so they could breathe and sleep more easily. 

Dr Ambreen Chohan and the MedTech Innovation Group led the work alongside James through Levitex’s sister company, Posture Care, with the pressure-relieving cushions now being used at Royal Preston Hospital’s ICU and East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust.

James also appeared at Lancashire Innovation Festival recently to talk more about the Proning System, creating innovation out of adversity and what he was able to achieve in collaboration with UCLan and the ICU in a matter of weeks.

“I was delighted to talk about the Proning System at the festival as it’s such a good example of how business and academia can work together to find solutions to big problems quickly”, James added.

“We’re really proud of the impact the system had and continues to have, and there’s no question it has helped save many lives.

“Our relationship with UCLan has been allowed us to create an independent clinical evidence base for the work we do in sleep posture, which has helped to commercialise our offer with statistics and evidence rather than clever marketing. We also have some other ground-breaking research across multiple sectors including allied health, biomechanics, nursing, engineering, sport science and we are keen to delve even further into independent clinical research.”

For more information about Levitex, visit www.levitex.co.uk