In September 2013, Christy Phillips had a premonition.
One morning, she awoke from a dream that would change the course of her career and catapult her into a new passion. Phillips had dreamed that she was creating products made out of a special material that blocked harmful waves that emanate from everyday devices, like cellphones and computers. “And I was like, ‘What? What are these things? Where did this come from?’” she recalled.
Six years later, after intensive research, product development, and testing, Phillips has realized her dream in NixRay — a line of bags and cases that block electronic radiofrequency waves from entering our bodies.
This all may seem rather cinematic, but Phillips swears it’s true. That day, the seamstress and single parent decided that her dream was a sign, and channeled all her energy into working toward it.
Her vision didn’t come out of nowhere. The harmful, yet invisible, effects of radiofrequency waves had been on Phillips’ mind for days. As a single mother to two growing sons whose phones were always inches from their faces or riding in their pants pockets, she wondered whether their devices were a little too close for comfort. “They’re like a part of our bodies now,” she said.
Following the sudden deaths of two close friends from brain cancer who “just lived on their cell phones,” the connection became clear to Phillips.
She mined the Internet for proof, and found that her suspicion was confirmed by articles on cancer.org, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Curiously, though, she often found that the evidence was scarce, protected, or deleted the day after she discovered it.
“I would find webpages that talked about how damaging these radiofrequency waves were, and I would look the next day and it would have disappeared,” she said. “It would say ‘Page Not Found.’”
Phillips moved to the Island when she was 11 years old, and after several years of moving around off-Island, she decided that Martha’s Vineyard was the best place to raise her kids. In order to work from home and simultaneously care for her children, Phillips worked as a seamstress.
With seven sewing machines at home, Phillips started by designing “action sportswear and all the stuff that was in movement,” she said, but her signature creation was custom jackets sewn from military blankets, which are extremely tough to get a needle and thread through, according to Phillips.
With her background in fashion design and military fabric, she knew that there must be a fabric capable of stifling these rays. Her instinct was right.
She discovered through her online research that “military personnel going into special military operations have this ugly pouch — a ‘Faraday cage’ — that they could put their phones in to make them untrackable,” she said.
Dr. Michael Faraday was a scientist who discovered the physics principles underlying electrochemistry. Thin, metallic, and meshlike, the fabric named after him muffles electronic rays. The U.S. military uses the fabric to protect soldiers’ devices from being detected by enemy radars.
As soon as she found the fabric, she ordered a few yards, and began to create bags for her family using sewing tools to handle unruly industrial fabric.
“I thought, ‘I’ve got to get my family protected;’ I have a large family,” she said. “It was all about my family, it was something that I never thought about creating into a business.”
Little did she know then that these first bags were the early prototypes of NixRay.
Word spread among family and friends, and “I just got more and more people asking for them,” Phillips said. She thought that instead of hand-sewing each complex design herself, she would hire someone.
Finding a seamstress who could handle the complicated design was difficult. Phillips needed someone who could handle Faraday fabric, cover it with thick, water-resistant canvas, rough nonslip material, and finish it off with a large copper zipper.
Her search led her to Fall River, to another military sewer who could sew all her products so Phillips could focus on the business side of the company.
After years of product development and surveying friends, NixRay finally launched an online store. NixRay.com offers the reversible laptop case (with or without a strap), the “Hipster Holster” crossbody bag, and the cell phone pocket pouch. Every product comes in a multitude of colors: thyme green, blue silver, earth red, herringbone, desert sand, and dark olive, and can be sized to fit the dimensions of any device. The cellphone pouch and crossbody bag are only lined on the side that faces one’s body, so you can still receive text messages, phone calls, and emails while carrying your phone in the bag.
At the core of Phillips’ mission is her motherly instinct to protect others. “Just notice your leg or your ear after carrying your phone or talking on the phone for a while,” she said. “That heat that you feel is the rays.”
She also wants to promote women in the workplace — her entire team is female. “From my web designers to my photographers, to my writers, to my sewers, to even the place I get the fabric from,” Phillips said. “Women have really good sensibility, and are great to collaborate with.”
The sky’s the limit for NixRay products — Phillips wants to expand her business to reach “everybody.”
“A koozie for every device that you own,” she said.
NixRay products are available for purchase online at nixray.com, and at Island flea markets.