Personally, I’ve always fostered a strange hatred for clothes hangers. Big comfy sweaters slide off and end up on the ground. Too many in a bunch, and they become a merciless knot of clunky plastic. And I’m not the only one; I’ve read about others, heard murmurs, of those that share this bitterness towards the hanger.

Perhaps that’s why I, and many others, were immediately drawn to a certain table at North Dakota State University’s Innovation Challenge event the night of Tuesday, January 27. The group was called “Geo Mod” and their project falls under the Product section of the competition (other sections are Corn and Service). On the table was a collection of multi-colored hexagon shapes, and to the side was your average clothes rack, filled with hangers made from these puzzle pieces and hanging everything from shoes to dresses to belts.

What Geo Mod claimed to do was precisely what, perhaps, we’ve all been waiting for. Re-inventing the clothes hanger.

Geo Mod

Amber Grindeland presents Geo Mod.

Standing at the table presenting the idea was NDSU student Amber Grindeland, who is developing the project with her business partner Caet Fox. It was Fox who first came up with the idea, Grindeland said. She’d been complaining about how much she was sick of clothes hangers when the light bulb hit: “Hey, let’s re-invent it.”

Grindeland admits she was at first wary of the idea. After all, the design of the clothes hanger has been relatively untouched for a century. But as the two began brainstorming, she said, the possibilities began to unfold.

What emerged over the past couple months is a hanger made from 3D-printed hexagon shapes. The pieces snap together in a Lego-like fashion, and can adjust to any type of apparel. Shoe heels fit through them so they can hang, hookable additions are available to hang belts and pants from, and large open-neck sweaters- the kind that often slip off of hangers – are kept in place by simply adding to the design. With these pieces, you can customize your hanger however you wish.

“There are literally infinite possibilities,” Grindeland said, holding up the different designs on display.

Geo Mod

Shoes can hang by their heels.

Grindeland explained how they would be sold in a pack, with a small card included that explains the different designs one can create.

But perhaps one of the biggest perks of this re-invented hanger, is this: they are 3D printed using corn-based plastic, and thus are completely biodegradable.

Currently, the plastic hangers that sit in almost everybody’s closet today are made up of Polystyrene and Polycarbonate – plastics that can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Not only that, but 8 billion of those plastic clothes hangers get thrown in a landfill each year. That is the equivalent of putting 4-6 Empire State Buildings full of hangers into the ground.

Not so, with Geo Mod!

“With our hangers, they are 100% recyclable,” Grindeland said. “And even if people forget, or are too lazy to throw these in the recycle, they are still biodegradable. So if they go to a landfill they will break down quickly and leave no mark.”

Geo Mod

The components of the Geo Mod clothes hanger.

Geo Mod was quickly one of the hottest tables to see at the Innovation Challenge; but there were also 26 other groups! Stay tuned on the blog to catch an overview of some of the other eye-catching ideas, and make sure to attend the final event – 11:30 AM at the Fargodome on February 26, 2015 – to see what three teams will win a total of $20,000 in cash prizes!

Learn more about the Innovation Challenge, here.

Photos by Marisa Jackels.

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Marisa Jackels