When Elaine Song ’20 came to Dwight in tenth grade, she was excited to dive into the IB curriculum.
After relocating from Shanghai, where she was enrolled in a British school, Elaine found that the IB Learner Profile — especially the risk-taker attribute — spoke to her. It’s what inspired Elaine to bring her innovative vision for a jacket that transforms into a bag to Spark Tank.
A jacket. A bag. How does that work?
Quite well, in fact!
Elaine, who grew up listening to her parents talk about the apparel industry around the dining table, had an idea for a design of her own that would be both unique and useful. Her love of science came into the mix to match her love of fashion: While researching nanotechnology in biology class (one of her favorite subjects along with chemistry), Elaine discovered its many uses, including waterproofing. Tiny silica particles can be incorporated into the weave or sprayed onto the surface of the fabric to repel water. Armed with this knowledge, Elaine designed her first wind-breaker using water-resistant fabric, found a source in China to manufacture a prototype using nanotechnology, and called it “NanoSpark.”
In addition to keeping one dry, the lightweight jacket could fold compactly into a pocket to become its own small bag for easy toting. Elaine took her concept one step further with a one-of-a-kind design for the lining of the jacket and bag. With a Dwight customer base in mind, she drew inspiration — literally and figuratively — from our school magazine: The pattern is a collage from the Winter 2019 issue of Dwight Today!
Along the way, Elaine presented her prototype to the Spark Tank Committee, which was greatly impressed with her ingenuity and helped to fund her project. They continued to applaud her progress this fall as Elaine shared version 2.0, featuring greater wrinkle resistance and utility. Over the summer, she had refined the design so that the windbreaker now folds into a shoulder bag to hold more than just the jacket — a laptop, phone, wallet, etc. She also rebranded her design as “TRANZ” — where fashion meets function — to better communicate its transitional nature, launched an online store with additional color options, and began selling!
“TRANZ satisfies teenagers’ aesthetic and evokes a new trend in ‘uniform fashion,’ as it is now included in Dwight’s dress code,” explains Elaine, who is a savvy marketer. She sought dress-code approval from Dwight administrators, sells jackets through the Dwight online store in addition to her own, and offers a 10% discount + free shipping to Dwight community members!
This year, Elaine attracted new customers and lots of enthusiasm on campus by demonstrating the jacket’s transformation at the Fall Activities Fair and Spark Tank Expo. Grateful to The Dwight School Foundation’s Spark Tank Committee for its support, Elaine shares, “Dwight and Spark Tank offer unique opportunities for students to propose their own ideas and have access to resources that enable them to launch their own businesses. It’s really impressive how much they trust in students, fund our projects, and give us space to grow. We are very fortunate!”
Lots of Sparks
You would think that between schoolwork, applying for college, and building a business, Elaine wouldn’t have much time for anything else, but she does! She loves classical music, especially composers from the Romantic Period, and plays the violin in the Chamber Orchestra; is a member of Dwight’s after-school Math Team; and part of the National Honor Society, through which she helped to organize art activities at Service-Spirit Weekend and is lending a hand at the upcoming NHS coat drive … not to mention conducting science experiments at home with her younger brother!
When asked what her spark of genius is, Elaine responded, “I have lots of sparks, but perhaps my special spark is my ability to explore new things and combine my interests.” In an analogy of her own creation, Elaine says, “We are all made up of so many cells, which fascinates me. Our cells are constantly developing, dying, and redeveloping anew to support life. They try so hard, so I should always try hard, too!”
Looking ahead, Elaine plans to introduce another version of TRANZ, which can be personalized. She cites Dwight’s senior class hoodie, which is emblazoned with student names on the back, as the inspiration. She also hopes to see the jacket continue as part of the Dwight dress code and wants to work with Lower School students to pass on the torch of innovation.
We have no doubt that Elaine’s visionary design will be around for many years to come! And just in time for holiday shopping, visit the TRANZ online store!
- Spark Tank
- Student Spark
- Technology and Innovation