Chad Leeder, innovation specialist for L.L.Bean, gives a presentation at the new office of Rinck Advertising on Lisbon Street in Lewiston on Wednesday. The marketing and public relations agency moved into the former W.T. Grant building after extensive renovations.  (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — In a bright room at the front of Rinck Advertising’s new space on Lisbon Street, two dozen people are passing around an army-green jacket.

It’s not just any jacket. It’s made with in-yarn technologies that make the coat almost perfectly resistant to liquid. You could pour a bottle of water over this coat and it would run right off: In fact, Chad Leeder did just that before he invited the group to pass around the jacket, which was, of course, perfectly dry.

Next, it was a square of fabric that stretched like Spandex but was utterly resistant to stains of all kinds. After that, a chunk of foam-like material that Leeder misted with water.

“Pass it around,” he told the group. “You’ll feel it heating up.”

His presentation included materials that warm the body, materials that sweat so you don’t have to, smart materials designed so that every movement of the body can be monitored and studied remotely.

Chad Leeder, Innovation Specialist for L.L. Bean, gives a presentation at Rinck Advertising in Lewiston on Thursday.  (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Leeder, L.L.Bean’s innovation specialist, turned his Place for Makers talk into a show-and-tell Wednesday night and the audience ate it up. They marveled over materials made of algae and corn, and over new-age garments designed with nano-technology. People tugged at the goods, rolled them into balls, sniffed them.

It’s all part of The Makers’ Revolution, Leeder told them. Innovation is what happens when locally sourced materials meet collaborative design.

“If you can connect the dots and find partnerships with each other,” Leeder said, “you can achieve just about anything.”

If anyone would know, it would be Leeder, who has been tasked with tweaking Bean’s traditional business model of innovation. This is a fellow whose past clients include Target, Wal-Mart, Fisher-Price, Mattel, Disney, Nike, Rawlings, Mead, Motorola and Baxter, among others.

Leeder was invited to Lewiston by organizers of the L/A Arts Place for Makers, a discussion and networking series to be hosted at various locations in the Twin Cities.

“With an extraordinarily diverse product-design background, ranging from medical device manufacturing, sporting goods, apparel, toys, transportation, and even heavy industrial equipment, Chad has an insatiable appetite for learning new things,” according to an L/A Arts news release. “With over 20 domestic and international patents to his name, he possesses technical sensibilities that have served him well cross-functionally over the course of his 13-year career.”

Prior to joining L.L.Bean in 2014, Leeder was employed by the IDEA award-winning product design firm, Priority Designs in Columbus, where he was a senior industrial designer with a specialty in sporting/soft-goods design.

From 2004 to 2011, he lived in various parts of Southern California, spending the final five years at Össur, a world-leader in bionic and other high-tech prosthetic devices. It was here that his team earned a prestigious Red Dot Award, for their work on a breathable walking boot orthotic.

Chad Leeder, innovation specialist for L.L.Bean, mingles prior to his talk at Rinck Advertising in Lewiston on Thursday.  (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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