An algorithm we wear to protect our identity: Rachele Didero’s idea

Every morning, as soon as we wake up, we choose the clothes that we wear throughout the day. According to Rachele Didero, this is the first conscious communication action we take, a choice that can become a vehicle for our values, including human rights.

Rachele discovered the world of fashion through a sewing class in Stevensville, Montana (USA), where she studied for a year during high school. After finishing high school, she enrolled in Fashion Design at Politecnico di Milano. The following year, she attended ESDI design school in Barcelona, and then returned to Politecnico to graduate with a specialisation in knitwear. She flew to New York to study at Fashion Institute of Technology and discovered the potential of combining Computer Science and Textiles: this is where the idea first came about to design garments capable of hindering facial recognition mixing together fashion, technology and human rights, an idea that became concrete with the creation of seven prototypes in the labs of Shenkar College in Tel Aviv. Cap_able was created. It is one of the eight projects in Fondazione CRT’s Talenti per l’Impresa 2021-2022 programme that could soon be transformed into a start-up.

We had a chat with Rachele to find out how her story unfolded and how it might evolve.

How do you hinder biometric recognition with a designer garment?

Last year, together with Politecnico di Milano, I patented Adversarial Knitted Textile, a method for knitting images processed by an adversarial algorithm that can fool object recognition systems in real time. If I wear a garment that has an adversarial image woven into it, I protect the biometric data of my face by ensuring that it cannot be detected or associated with an incorrect category such as ‘animal’ instead of ‘human’. The method I have patented makes it possible to transfer the adversarial algorithm into a knitted fabric without losing its effectiveness, although the change from pixel to knitted fabric always leads to a reduction in image resolution.

How does Cap_able promote human rights values?

Cap_able offers highly innovative design products with a strong technological and ethical component, as a means of expression and to feel part of a community. Cap_able’s first project is Manifesto Collection, the first collection of knitted garments that shield facial recognition, without the need to cover the face. The aim is to make people aware of their right to privacy and the protection of their biometric data, an issue that is often underestimated, even though it affects the majority of citizens in the world. The value is twofold: the garment is not only a shield against biometric recognition, but it is also and above all a manifesto to stimulate a debate on the importance of protecting against the misuse of cameras for facial recognition.

How does Fondazione CRT’s “Talenti per l’Impresa” pathway is contributing to Cap_able’s transformation into a real start-up?

“Talenti per l’Impresa” is the way to transform an idea into a concrete project. I applied in 2021 to understand what steps I needed to take to create my own start-up: I understood what it means to create a company, I met 55 colleagues with whom I could share ideas, I reconsidered the mission of the company and, since November, the project has a fundamental element: a team! Today Cap_able has three new members, all coming from the Community of Talents: Federica Busani, Cristina Cerri and Pasquale Pellegrino. During 2022, Fondazione CRT will provide tailored support in preparing a crowdfunding campaign, in seeking tax advice and evaluating the most strategic partnerships. By September, we plan to launch our fundraising campaign through which we will pre-sell the items in Manifesto Collection. Stay tuned!

Who would you recommend to pursue a “Talenti” project?

“Talenti per l’Impresa” was the highlight of my 2021: I would recommend it to anyone that shows initiative and is willing to listen and has a dream to fulfill. In addition to training on everything they need to know to start a business, future Talents will also have the chance to join an extremely stimulating Community of colleagues and tutors who they can count on to help them compare notes.