What to Wair? Style Meets Function When Air Quality Drops

Caroline Van Renterghem, CEO and co-founder of Wair, models one of the company's air-purifying scarves at CES Unveiled in Las Vegas, Nev., on Jan. 3, 2017. Photo by Sarah Toy/BU News Service.

By Sarah Toy
BU News Service

Caroline Van Renterghem used to ride her bike every day in Paris, she said, and it was tough. She coughed a lot. One day, it got so bad, “I had to stop,” she said.

“I went to the doctor,” she recalled. “He said it was the pollution.”

She said she tried wearing scarves over her face, but they were ineffective. She tried wearing pollution masks, but they were uncomfortable and, quite frankly, ugly.

This is how Wair, an air-purifying scarf, came to be.

Van Renterghem, CEO and co-founder of Wair, called it a “miniaturized air purifier.” It’s a scarf with a small motorized fan and two filters that attempt to keep out micro particles. According to Van Renterghem, one of the biggest advantages of Wair is that it doesn’t just keep out the micro particles — it brings fresh air in.

It also doesn’t look too shabby. Van Renterghem, who used to work in the fashion industry, wanted a practical solution that would also look good. At CES Unveiled on Tuesday evening, Wair displayed two scarves: one in plain gray and another in blue and white, for those who are little more fashion-forward.

To use it, you pull it up around your mouth and nose when you “feel like you’re in a polluted area or when your app tells you to,” said Van Renterghem. Yes, like most of the gadgets here at CES, the scarf comes with an app. Wair’s app delivers pollution warnings about the area its owner happens to be in.

Wair is targeting its product at motor bikers and cyclists, but Van Renterghem insisted anyone can find the company’s air-purifying scarf useful. For those who want a piece of this air-purifying fashion future, the version with the fan is still in its prototype phase, but a fanless version can be preordered on the company’s web site for €69 (or $72).

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