Pioneering Collaboration Transforms Garments and Fashion Waste into Recyclable Materials

You would be hard-pressed to find a more frequently used buzz word in fashion than ‘sustainability’, right now.  Following its use, the obvious question is often, “but what do you mean by sustainable”.  Both a problem and a solution, sustainability runs a broad gamut including textile and garment manufacturing practices, to chemistry and materials science, then finally product sales, consumption and usage patterns.  Digging deeper, what underlies this urgent and growing focus on sustainability in the global fashion industry is the fact that is it the second most polluting industry in the world after oil and gas, but you probably know that by now.  Why does that suddenly matter to many fashion brands and companies?  Why are brands adopting “sustainability”.  Broadly speaking, it is because of threats to profit margins (caused by increasing cost of natural resources and materials which are in sharp decline) and potential backlash from consumers who are beginning to understand the fashion industry’s wasteful methods are damaging the planet and its people.

To understand the environmental implications of the current methods used in the fashion industry it is helpful to understand the volume of resources (including energy and water) we use to make our clothes and how much use we get out of those clothes.  Remembering that the planet’s resources are finite – we don’t have an endless supply of fossil fuels to burn to create electrical energy to power manufacturing and we don’t have endless access to clean water for growing cotton and dyeing processes), it follows that a circular way of manufacturing makes more sense than a linear one.   

To differentiate between circular and linear using the example of jeans – If it takes up to 10,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans and we wear them for a matter of months then throw them in the bin, never to be used again, this linear process depletes resources catastrophically.  However, if those jeans could be turned into new materials (rather than thrown in the bin) that are themselves recyclable, then the resources used to manufacture those jeans provide products for a long and circular life – a perpetual one that is energy efficient and reduces the burden of future manufacturing and reduces the depletion of natural resources significantly.

This circularity was at the heart of the thinking behind the latest EU-funded project by the teams at BRIA and SABINNA, who created a fashion capsule collection of cotton and viscose garments which were then transformed into new, 100% recyclable and biodegradable materials that could be used for packaging and shop interiors.  The materials are circular in that they can then be recycled a large number of times in order to keep the core fibres of the materials ‘alive’ and in use – thereby avoiding landfill. 

BRIA x SABINNA garments, processes and new materials transformed into packaging

New materials in development in lab

New materials as garment swing tags

The processes BRIA x SABINNA used are based on simple organic chemistry – dissolving and reforming the cellulose molecules in the clothing into new 100% cellulose-based materials that were compressed into flexible sheets, in some cases like paper or a film, and in other cases like a thicker MDF-type ‘wood’ material.  The processes vary depending on the new material being created, and the initial experiments were done on a small scale in a London-lab as ‘proof-of-concept’ that it is possible to turn any clothes made of cotton or viscose into new materials using minimal chemicals (and sometimes no chemicals at all) in ways that are sustainable in terms of the amount of natural resources (energy and water) needed to perform the recycling process and also in terms of the material outcome.

BRIA x Sabinna viscose knitted jumper, cotton shirt and denim jeans – later transformed into new materials

Laminate-effect textured card created from BRIA x SABINNA viscose knitted jumper above

Processing of denim into new packaging materials

If we look at other narratives around sustainability in fashion that call for up-cycling and wearing clothes for longer, or buying less, we see a shift of responsibility for sustainability from the industry to the consumer.  Whilst this makes sense in terms of educating and informing consumers, it poses a huge problem in that it does not instigate change in the industry or challenge processes that are destroying the planet and harming people.  This is what is making the shift of focus to circularity and science and technology for the answers to our most burning questions and problems in the industry crucial.

Development of new material from denim

In my design and innovation role at BRIA, I was a member of the team that conducted this project with the support of EU-funding from WEAR Sustain.  The project was instigated following a trip to Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2017, during which my conversations with Marie-Clarie Daveu of Kering, Anna Gedda of H&M and Mira Duma of Future Tech Lab instigated a quest to understand just how big a challenge making sustainable products is for fashion brands, from the initial design process through to the end-of-life of the garment.  Could brands, small and large alike, design and produce collections in a circular manner?  What would it cost?  Would the designs be compromised?  What would the restrictions be?  During a conversation with Vanessa Friedman she told me she thought sustainability was inherent in good fashion design, rather than an ‘add-on’.  But how is it inherent?  Does choosing organic cotton make a garment ‘sustainable’.  Not if we consider circularity as the ultimate solution to the depletion and pollution caused by the fashion industry.  So it has to go further.  It has to be part of the way the collection is conceived, the materials are made, the construction methods used and the strategy for the ‘end-of-life’ of the garment – where does the garment go when it is no longer used?  These were the questions we at BRIA sought to answer along with our collaborator SABINNA. 

The result proves that any designer using 100% cotton and viscose is creating garments that are forever recyclable – any designer can use our processes to recycle their garments.  It also proves that cotton and viscose clothing can even be recovered from landfill and processed using our method in order to keep the fibres in the circular system.  One of the most exciting elements for us was to achieve new materials with garments including hand-knits, denim jeans and multi-yarn jacquard knits – showing that the thickness and form of the textile yields to the process equally well.  The chemistry checks-out, giving clean and biodegradable results every time.

BRIA x SABINNA jeans 

New materials created from 100% cotton jeans above

Bowl from recycled viscose process and swing tag and box from recycled denim process

The next step is to explore brand partnerships to allow companies to clean up their own supply chains – jeans offcuts used to make the shelving and flooring in-store?  There is no reason why not.  Branded silky cellophane-like film packaging made from recycled high-end viscose dresses?  Hell yeah!

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Plexal is set to be Europe’s Beating Heart of Health, Sport, Fashion and Tech Innovation

News to lift the Brexit blues.  Plexal, Entiq’s new venture at Here East is a shining beacon of not just the future of tech businesses in London, but a coming together of arts, design, culture, education and technology.  Uniquely positioned in what was the media centre for the London Olympics, Plexal, benefits from an expansive river-side space with access to world-class facilities including the data centre that powered the global broadcasting of the Olympics.   

It’s a bold vision delivered passionately by Claire Cockerton, CEO and Chairwoman of Entiq and serial entrepreneur, a title oft overused, but in Claire’s case describing her immense experience and ability to establish and grow businesses.  She founded Aesthetic Earthworks, a sustainable architecture firm, whilst at University in Toronto, Canada, and grew it into a multimillion dollar company before selling it to a competitor in the industry.  Following a subsequent MBA in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Design (with a strong focus on accelerators, technology transfer institutions and business incubation) she helped establish Richard Branson’s ‘Centre for Entrepreneurship’ in Johannesburg before co-leading the launch of Level39, Europe’s largest technology accelerator for the fintech and smart cities industries in Canary Wharf.  She also founded Pivotal Innovations, a firm specialising in corporate innovation and accelerator programmes in the fintech sector.

The purity of the vision for Plexal arises from the stunning blank canvas and expansive space occupying the 68000 square feet ground floor of Here East, nestled into a corner of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park overlooking Hackney Wick and bordering the canal, with impressive terraces looking out across London city. The philosophy at Plexal, and more broadly Here East, is one of work/life.  The Here East plans extend beyond business and education (it will be home to Loughborough University, UCL and London College of Fashion Universities and faculties) to cultural experiences at the soon-to-be-established V&A at E20 and Sadler’s Wells, just across the park.  Artist pods will be housed in the Here East facade, facing the canal.  Boutique bars and restaurants (not a chain in sight) are setting up alongside shopping and civic spaces which conjures up the notion of a dynamic city within a city.  All of this will contribute to a creative and tech-driven Plexal.


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At the heart of Plexal is the aim to bring small business and corporates together for mutual exploration and benefit, on equal terms.   Flexible, adaptable spaces – all with facilitation and dynamic business development in mind.  Plexal presents a striking opportunity to build, found and establish businesses seeking to work across disciplines to truly innovate.  It will provide a wide range of services including practical ‘intrapreneurship’ and entrepreneurship education courses, a state-of-the-art testing and prototyping lab, acceleration and incubation programmes, events, networking opportunities and a range of funding alternatives. With an initial focus on technology innovation applied to sports, wellbeing, fashion and mobility, the centre will have capacity for 800 members, becoming the home for corporates and startups that are designing and creating the connected products that will improve our lives.

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I have been based in neighbouring Bethnal Green for well over a decade and the project at Here East feels like both a solidification of a scene that’s been steadily growing throughout that time, and the recognition that the vibrant art and design community, which I belong to, has a wealth of insight and inspiration to help propel Plexal into a multi-disciplinary, dynamic and exciting future.  Having been on a personal tour of the site with Claire, I can see the potential for a flexible layout incorporating a number of different business sizes and types, at various stages of development.

The choice of the Olympic site, of such ground breaking achievement beyond our imaginations, is a fitting and poetic home for this ambitious space.  Where better to set about tackling some of our trickiest problems in the sectors of health, sports, fashion, IoT, all under one roof?  Tech dreams by way of Olympic ones.  It’s all to strive for.

Plexal launches in May 2017, but an Innovation Forum and soft launch was held on October 27th, for which I curated a fashion tech showcase demonstrating the depth of creativity and talent in the fashion tech sector in London, including Modeclix, Headworks, Skinterface, Vegetarian Mushroom Leather by Kering Award finalist Irene-Marie Seelig, Holition’s virtual makeup app, the Bionic Toolkit by Jason Taylor, Village communications London Fashion Week VR experience and my own label, Brooke Roberts medical scan knitwear.  

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At the Innovation Forum, compered by Oli Barrett, Claire Cockerton delivered Plexal’s vision as discussed above, and Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK, explained that tech business represents 10% of GDP in the UK versus 8% in the US and is the largest single sector, growing at a rate 32% faster than the next fastest growing sector. With GBP 45 billion in exports from the tech sector, we are best positioned to grow our tech and digital economy compared to other industries.  Other speakers, including Liam Maxwell, the self-proclaimed ‘CTO of the UK Government’, were also there to share their belief that this sector really is the economic future of the UK for the coming decades, and panel discussions including industry leaders from Team Sky, Centrica, Autodesk and the Open Data Institute added their voices to this rallying cry.  By the end of the presentation, I was buzzing with the belief that Plexal will be at the heart of this burgeoning growth driving the sector forward, with its vision of co-creation across the creative and technical sectors.

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 In the wake of Brexit, and the election result in the United States, Here East and Plexal provide a positive focal point for how our creative and tech-driven future can grow and propel us forward towards a brave new connected world and I am looking forward to following the journey.

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Fyodor Golan’s 3D Simulated Fashion Presentation Heralds The Symbiosis of Fashion Design and Tech

These are some of the words I frantically tapped into my iPhone notes during Fyodor Golan’s stunning London Fashion Week presentation: ‘tender, ferocious, glitchy, primal, diverse’.  The words hit me in digital waves, a helpful metaphor for a presentation that opened with a CGI film in collaboration with Miximaliste that cast avatar models hovering above water and interacting with each other in a tender and glitchy way, creating a warm and poetic narrative about nature, technology and design.  

This piece of CGI fashion film art, entitled ‘Change of Paradigm’ portrays a fantasy world described in the show notes as “an artificial FG paradise”, and is the first step in Fyodor Golan’s journey to fully digital design and specification of garments pre-sampling, removing the need to toile.  Ultimately, they would no longer sketch the designs and make a paper pattern and mock up a the garment in fabric – this would be done digitally – streamlining and speeding up their design and development process and allowing their creativity to run wild.  This new digital process will also enable Fyodor Golan to create seasonal experiences, testing the relationship between fashion, fantasy and reality.

Fyodor Golan X Miximaliste ‘Change of Paradigm’

The multicoloured avatars gave way to a live presentation of the SS17 collection on models packing a serious punch that left the marks primal, attitude and fearlessness in their wake.  This was an expression of the beauty of diversity as much as it was about fashion, technology and new presentation formats.  Fyodor Golan are pushing all sorts of boundaries – I viewed their presentation twice to take it all in.  A fashion journalist from the Czech Republic was enjoying his third viewing when we struck up a conversation.

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Amongst my aforementioned frantically typed notes I also wrote ‘so much direction here’, which, simplistic as it is, serves to remind me that the strength of vision in the film-making, use of colour, styling, casting, set design and sound made this presentation a force of fashion, technology and nature.  The collection is an extension of pre-SS17, which I wrote about previously on Techstyler, with its inspiration rooted in holographic pop star Hatsune Miku, making their avatar model concept a ‘natural’ extension of their pre-season inspiration.

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The hybrid hiking trainers by Salomon led me to imagine a place where these models might scale epic heights, conquering the next frontier of fashion tech and leading an intrepid journey forward into digital fashion’s future.  I can’t wait to see how Fyodor Golan bend tech to their will to present the next installation on their fashion tech journey.


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Golan Frydman, Fyodor Podgorny and a presentation guest, backstage

Show Credits

Stylist: Tati Cotliar

Collection Manager: Billie McKenna

Video Direction: Fyodor Golan

Video Animation: Thomas Makryniotis for Miximaliste

Show Production: NP+CO

Video Production: Miximaliste

Hair: Syd Hayes for Babyliss Pro

Makeup: Andrew Gallimore and Team @ CLM using Maybelline NY

Nails: Sabrina Gayle using Orly

Shoes: Salomon

Music Director: Rohan Budd

PR: Village

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Fyodor Golan’s Pre-SS17 Collection Brings Grown-up fun and a catalyst for post-Brexit change

Fyodor Golan are somewhat of a paradox –  at once intellectual and playful, they traverse the fringe of a fashion industry in a state of flux.  Whilst contemplating the structure and aim of their fashion business, they are questioning the importance of individualism in a sea of rampantly ‘cohesive’ and highly refined fashion.  The designers open the interview with the revelation that they delayed their seasonal trip to their Paris showroom in order to vote in the referendum.  The fallout from the vote in favour of ‘Brexit’ has left them with a sense of resilience in the face of potential EU funding losses.  Many of the projects and initiatives they have undertaken whilst establishing and growing their business have been supported by EU funding and they predict a Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ situation will ensue amongst young independent fashion designers in London who are struggling to create seasonal collections and remain solvent.   

Where this dramatic and uncertain political climate could potentially trigger cautious conservatism, Fyodor and Golan are intellectually and pragmatically assessing all areas of their business and considering the needs of their customers and the best platforms with which to engage them.  They resolve to stay ‘individual’ and adopt an ever more digital and tech-driven approach to their seasonal collections.  Why do a show at London Fashion Week that draws vast energy and finance away from the business and requires the creation of some garments that they know will not be good sellers, but that are necessary in order to create requisite looks simply for the purposes of the show?  If the show is to the clear detriment of their product offering and bottom line, what is the point?  The vast press generated by a fashion show is well documented and, as any fashion designer involved in London, New York, Paris and Milan fashion weeks will tell you, the credibility gained from showing on-schedule during fashion week is immense and affirming – at least ostensibly.  But the rise of social media has taken fashion out of the hands of the few and placed it in the hands of the many global consumers.  Digital platforms have a life beyond a seven-odd minute fashion show during which time it is ‘impossible to see the clothes properly’ as noted by Fyodor.  In summary, fashion shows aren’t fit for purpose and the stigma attached to designers who decide to no longer ‘show’ is waning.

With new presentation platforms comes new opportunities for self-expression and consumer interaction.  Golan explains how insightful and inspiring the dialogue from client to designer is on Instagram.  Their clients post images of their self-styled ‘FG’ looks, thereby contextualising Fyodor and Golan’s seasonal work –  a dialogue that never occurred pre-social media when the only route to market was through wholesale accounts – meaning no direct contact between the designer and the consumer.  That’s all different now and brings me back to questioning the point of ‘cohesiveness’ of a fashion collection.

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The generally accepted framework for the study and application of fashion design that I, and many other designers have experienced at London/UK-based fashion design institutions, hinges on a refined, highly focused – ‘cohesive’ – presentation of a design concept/concepts in order to ensure that a specifiable ‘aesthetic’ is presented.  This occurs to me to be a useful tool for categorisation and identification of a designer or brand for the purposes of critique, but may be at odds with the way fashion is best presented, experienced and consumed in a digital age.

Burberry-Prorsum-Spring-Summer-2013-DECORCohesive uniformity – Burberry Prorsum SS13

Sure, brands like Burberry are built on a largely singular aesthetic/design language and their merchandising depends on a sort of ‘cohesion’, but what of the explosion of Vetements against the backdrop of such ‘cohesiveness’ and singularly focused vision – and what of the conversation about this collaborative, multi-faceted and un-cohesive aesthetic that is starting on social media (of course)?  Will cohesiveness and a singular aesthetic vision be relevant to millennials and Generation Z’ers?   If they’re shopping online and creating individual looks according to their own vision, and Instagram and Snapchat are ultimately more influential and engaging and more readily consumed than fashion shows, what is the point of cohesiveness at the expense of alienating consumers?  And again, if fashion shows continue to lose favour as the predominant presentation format, individuality becomes an even more powerful element of fashion’s presentation.  Fyodor Golan question this uniformity and go on to state that they have never sought ‘cohesiveness’ in their collections, but rather the creation of clothing as a vehicle for self expression and fun for their broad customer base, whose age group spans four decades and is global.  It could be argued that cohesiveness can kill creativity by stamping out individual expression, spontaneity and the charm of the unexpected – a fate unlikely to befall Fyodor Golan.

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On the subject of individualism in an increasingly ‘global’ market the duo explain, ‘Our clients come to us to express a different side of themselves… they have serious, professional jobs and wear Fyodor Golan as a way of tapping into their personality and as a visual representation of that (fun) side of themselves’. 


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Fyodor Golan’s creations are seriously fun.  Frothy?  Yes.  Flimsy?  Definitely not.  The products are underpinned by solid, quality-driven construction techniques employed since the launch of their label (which drew heavily on couture techniques initially) in 2011, and have evolved to express a sense of confidence through playfulness.

tumblr_mjul0m2iXs1s4mpljo3_1280Fyodor Golan SS2012

A further discussion that touches on current challenges in the area of fashion tech centres on product design versus fashion design.  Golan expresses the frustration at being restricted to short development times due to the seasonal nature of the fashion industry and longs to be able to explore design concepts in greater depth – as a product designer would, for example.  The approach through product design of creating a perfectly formed, functional and beautiful object is a luxury that just may be possible once Fyodor Golan have broken free of the restrictive cycle and demands that come with staging a fashion show each season.  Fyodor and Golan lament the unresolved design ideas that ping into their minds at that last evolutionary design stage – often the week before their London fashion week show – leaving them no time to see these ideas through to fruition because of limitations caused by show preparation and the restrictive need to create ‘looks’ for the show, rather than individually strong and exciting garments.  Due to the seasonal nature of fashion, the scope to pick up and continue such ideas in following seasons does not always present itself.  There is a serendipitous aspect to such ideas and sometimes, when the moment has passed, the opportunity and magic passes too. Essentially, dropping the traditional fashion show format allows the freedom and time to be more innovative.  It’s during this stage of the interview that Golan mentions the Makerversity, which is situated near their studio in Somerset House, which has clearly provided a point of reflection for the designers where the process of product design and development is concerned, versus that of fashion.

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In their Pre-SS17 collection, Fyodor Golan have furthered explored a number of concepts initiated in their AW16 collection, including hybrid sportswear with strapping and bows that are silhouette-changing, rather than simply surface details.  This plays into their desire for individuality within the collection – so one garment has many guises depending on the wearer’s styling preferences.  The collection, entitled “Sakura Kawaii’ was inspired by Hatsune Miku – a hologram-generated pop star – resulting in a collection that expresses “romance through plastification”.  It’s surreal to see real live fans at the concert of a holographic pop star screaming and waving glow sticks, but it perfectly illustrates the blurring of lines between reality and artificiality that Fyodor Golan have distilled into this collection.

The animated look book is the perfect expression of this darkly psychedelic-samurai mood, in collaboration with digital artist and animator, Ignasi Monreal.   Part of the joy of Fyodor Golan’s look books is that they seek to excite the imagination, rather than simply sell, and it expresses an aesthetic that the designers describe as resolutely ‘digital’.

Fyodor Golan Pre-SS17

The digitally driven playfulness in the presentation of their Pre-SS17 collection causes me to speculate as to the format of their next fashion presentation for London Fashion Week in September.  ‘We’re still exploring options’ and ‘we’re looking at integrating the process of creation into the presentation’ were the official standpoints at the time of our interview – suffice to say it will be an exciting, experimental and likely experiential offering that will gloriously break with tradition in yet another refreshing Fyodor Golan chapter.  It’s an exciting time in an evolving industry where as many lessons come from Darwinian truth as they do from social media metrics.  If fashion’s future is about creative adaptation, dynamism, freedom of thought and individuality, Fyodor Golan are surging ahead.

Header image:  Fyodor Golan

Fyodor Golan lookbook credits:  Mark Rabadan (Photography), Tati Cotliar (Stylist), Ignasi Monreal (Animation), Michelle Webb (Make up), Johanna Cree Brown (Hair)

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From Delivering Louboutins to Devising an Injury Detection Suit – This is Fashion Tech

It’s a refreshing start to the day to chat to an entrepreneur with two startups on the go just six months after graduating from an MA in Global Innovation Design at the Royal College of Art.  Dan Garrett is a do-er – and a resolutely practical one at that.  His recent collaboration with fashion designer Mary Benson is testament to his dynamic and collaborative approach to design.  ‘Fashion design is magical’ he says, reminiscing about his job as a bike courier ferrying Louboutins to devotees in London.  He recalls seeing women trying on the shoes in the store and paying handsome sums for what he describes as an uncomfortable and impractical object that paradoxically is utterly desirable.  Yep, that’s fashion!  Magical, sometimes confusing and utterly spellbinding.

We talk a little more about the magic of fashion and why Dan and his collaborators Elena Dieckmann, Ming Kong and Lucy Jong worked with Mary on their fascinating piece of wearable tech – the Bruise Suit. 

static1.squarespaceMary Benson’s graduate collection, University of Westminster, 2014

The bruise suit was borne out of a collaborative project at the RCA which saw Dan and his team find a problem that needed to be solved and then design and make the solution.  The project, supported by Rio Tinto, had an open brief.  The team decided to design a piece for use at the Sochi winter olympics and interviewed disabled athletes with the hope of devising a solution to a problem.  Paralympic sit-skiier Talan Skeels-Piggins complained of being injured but unaware of his injuries due to his disability and that’s when (after rejection of a number of wearables related concepts) the ‘bruise suit’ concept was borne.  The concept was that on sufficient impact likely to result in an injury, the suit would respond with a visual notification for the athlete.  Weeks of R & D in conjunction with a specialist research team at Imperial College London and collaboration with pattern cutter Raj Mistry resulted in a suit with removable sections of a polyurethane coated textile containing microcapsules of dye that shattered on sufficient impact, therefore signalling a chance of injury.  It’s best demonstrated by the video and images below.

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Bruise suit 1

The design won additional funding from Rio Tinto and the James Dyson Foundation, leading to a second phase which saw the team collaborate with fashion designer Mary Benson whose work incorporates vinyl applications on a multitude of textiles.  Dan explained to me that having researched (and launched a startup in product manufacturing for the healthcare market) he remains frustrated by the ugliness and lack of design in healthcare equipment.  There is little if any consideration for aesthetics in the creation of products for those with disabilities and the complicated process of procurement for such devices (usually by councils on behalf of those with disabilities and without their direct input) means those using the products aren’t choosing them.  The cold, beige hallmarks of medical devices and institutions carry through, he says.  Why? He asks.  Having worked in the NHS for over a decade and being a designer myself I have asked this question (in my own head and audibly) countless times.  Dan is determined to do something about it.  I sense this comes from a fascination for design, in particular fashion, having completed a stint at the Pratt Institute alongside studying at the RCA, however Dan confirms that his practical problem-solving brain’s hard wiring prevents him from moments of Mary Benson-like magic.  He delights in seeing designers, like Mary, create imaginative aesthetics but remains focussed on primarily solving problems with his design and engineering projects.    

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Mary, Dan and I live a stone’s throw from each other in Bethnal Green, East London, but it proved impossible to get together due to scheduling conflicts, s0 Dan explains to me that Mary devised the surface design for the Bruise suit by exploiting her much used technique of vinyl applications, which takes the suit into a different (multi-coloured) realm.  Mary’s surface design turns the suit into a fashion object in addition to a piece of technical clothing with a serious purpose.  The process of creating the microcapsule filled polyurethane strips that slide into discrete pockets strategically placed on the most at risk areas of the body (the long bones and knees, for example) was complex.  It utilised newspaper print press roller technology to ensure the two layers of film with the microcapsules were correctly structured to function on sufficient (injury causing) impact.  What Dan worked on specifically with Mary was creating pockets with teflon in between the vinyl and the film which could then be filled with the microcapsules.  Dan explains the satisfaction in developing design that serves the body and cites biomimicry as a motivator for his particular approach to such design projects.  Mirroring the structure of the body and supporting human anatomy is at the core of another of Dan’s projects, for which currently has an advisory role – Aergo, the pioneering modular disability support system. 

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Azure-DX-SmarterFasterTougher-15The Bruise Suit in collaboration with Mary Benson

Dan’s other projects have included TasteWorks, a VR sensory study focussing on appetite and dementia at Keio University and his most current undertaking, Farewill, which launches in earnest soon.  For now, I leave Dan with a buzz and heightened curiosity over what problems he might propose to solve through design next and hope they incorporate the magic of fashion.

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Fashion Data: Calculating the Cost of the Fashion Machine

A sister exhibition to Fashion Hacked at the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, Fashion Data is a stark reality check about the consumption of clothing and its societal meaning both in the West and East, along with the environmental implications for the planet. 

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Fashion Data incorporates Fashion Machine: an installation by Conny Groenewegen in which she slashes and re-works a typical leftover product of the fast fashion/clothing industry, the fleece sweater.  Conny and her team of students cut up and ‘re-spun’ the fleeces onto giant spools and looped them onto huge looms’ to demonstrate the scale of waste and the banality of the fleece jumper, which is largely undesired as a second-hand product and regularly finds its way into mattresses at the end of its lifecycle, or worse still, landfill.  Conny makes thought-provoking statements about the role of designers in mass manufacturing for fast fashion, summed up in the set of stills below, followed by a film documenting the creation of the Fashion Machine installation. 

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To view Conny Groenewegen’s fashion and knitwear design process in depth, watch this video.

In the film, note the polyethylene (PET) water bottles in the background, from which fleece jumpers have historically been made.  The recycling of PET bottles into polyester fabric to create fleeces is fascinating.  See the full process here.

Balancing Conny’s visual representation of physical waste is Fashion Data – a series of black and white (visually and metaphorically) statistics that give a context to the current European habits of purchasing, wearing and disposing of clothing.  I’ll let the numbers do the talking.

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The exhibition was curated by fashion historian José Teunissen.  Her publication Fashion Data is available to read online and fleshes out the numbers stated above.  It’s essential reading and explains the historic foundation of Fast Fashion, its environmental impact and the emerging slow fashion movement.  It is also a useful visual summary of the Fashion Data exhibition that’s as good as viewing it first hand.  To paraphrase Teunissen, 30% of today’s clothing is sold at the recommended retail price, another 30% disappears in the sales and 40% remains unsold or doesn’t even reach the shops.  This is the deadstock I spoke of in my previous post Fashion Hacked.   Today’s overproduction of Fast Fashion produces an enormous amount of waste with negative social and environmental impacts.  There are solutions being developed to make materials production cleaner and more sustainable, but the business of, and appetite for, Fast Fashion remain strong.

Fashion Data also alerted me to the work of Dutch fashion brand Youasme (womens) Measyou (mens), which launched in 2010 as the world’s first crowdfunded fashion brand creating slow fashion collections of high quality made-to-last knitwear and accessories.

youasme_measyou_pilgrimage_photo_j.w._kaldenbachImage: J.W. Kaldenbach

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.00.23 Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.00.44 Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.01.04An understated androgynous collage – Youasme Measyou AW14 collection.  Images: Blommers/Schumm.  Styling: Maarten Spruyt

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On a stylistic level I was also struck by the natural ease of Youasme/Measyou’s androgyny – it feels tangible and forever.  This is in stark contrast with the overt androgyny expressed by some current fashion designers, including JW Anderson, whose work feels firmly ‘of the moment’ and deliberately provocative – more a scream of gender bending than a quiet dissolving of the aesthetic gender divide.  No doubt both have merit and power for different reasons but it strikes me that Youasme’s expression feels more real; more authentic.  Herein lies the ever fascinating aspect of fashion’s aesthetic debate – its subjectivity.

In addition to Youasme, a host of Dutch designers are utilising sustainable materials and practices, highlighted in conjunction with Fashion Data at Het Nieuwe Instituut’s Temporary Fashion Exhibition.  Here’s a roundup.

paulin1Pauline Van Dongen‘s washable, wearable solar panel knitted shirt.  Image: Liselotte Fleur

The parting insight delivered by Fashion Data comes in the form of award winning film Unravel by Meghna Gupta.  Shot in India, the film illustrates the end point of clothing from the West that is sent for recycling and reveals the gaping divide between East and West and the perceived value of clothing.

The film runs deep into value judgements about society as a whole.  It is shocking and revelatory.  Some Indian factory workers assume that clothes being bought from stores like Primark are very expensive, meaning that Western consumers are very wealthy and can afford to simply give away their clothes for recycling and buy new ones. They also draw the conclusion that Western women are more worthy and beautiful compared to Eastern women because of this excessive consumption.  One female factory worker ponders, while removing decorative crystals from underwear, what the wearer must have done to deserve such a fate – stones on her underwear?!  She concluded the woman must have been forced to wear it as some form of punishment for bad behaviour.  Her comment is a stark reminder of a practical and functional attitude towards clothing, and of patriarchal dominance. 

The full length film can be viewed here. It is a profound and perspective-inducing film that is equally compelling and educational.  Further clothing recycling information is available here.  For information about the sustainable fashion effort in the UK, click here

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Sartorial Serendipity at 34 Montagu Square

It’s a story of serendipity.  Beatie Wolfe, singer songwriter and digital pioneer of the NFC-launched album Montagu Square met me at, well, 34 Montagu Square, to discuss a very peculiar and fascinating collaboration.

I say very peculiar for more reasons than one.  34 Montagu square is the home of tailor and Anthony Sinclair Creative Director David Mason.  The very same residence was home to Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Ringo Starr in the 60’s.  It was also the recording place of Eleanor Rigby and a number of other era-defining songs by the Beatles and other seminal artists from the 60’s and 70’s. David tells me that the current owner from whom he leases the property outbid Noel Gallagher.  Imagine the fallout.

unspecifiedDavid Mason and Beatie Wolfe – Image: Stuart Nicholls

8ad5a2a2ab5eeb800bcaba09a1b7c1a026bosboom002654981b82c13139d671a2e56c1c6c4e0Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon and Yoko Ono at 34 Montagu Square

I was greeted at 34 Montagu Square by David Mason who recently acquired the rights to the Mr Fish label – a fashion brand famous in the mid 60’s to 70’s for dressing Mick Jagger, David Bowie, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and less famous for dressing David Hockney, Pablo Picasso and Princess Margaret.  The role call of clients is astonishing.

12-carnabyTlRy2Gjtumblr_lwvnacdxAO1r95vbyo1_50030B0F57500000578-3422402-image-m-83_1454063635580Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix wearing Mr Fish.  And Mr Michael Fish himself outside his boutique

David is in the midst of relaunching Mr Fish (which we’ll delve into further in a future post) but today we’re talking about a collaboration he has just completed with Beatie and digital weaving pioneer Nadia Anne Ricketts, founder of Beatwoven.

DSC01015Beatie’s Take Me Home Jacket is enabled with NFC technology and when in close range of an NFC-enabled smartphone, plays the song

Beatie bumped into David at the Royal Albert Hall while attending a Michael Caine event commemorating the film Alfie – which Anthony Sinclair tailors created the suits for – and they got talking about 34 Montagu Square.  David invited Beatie over for tea and to experience the fascinating story of the residence.  This led to a discussion about Beatie performing in the flat and recording a track there.  The idea of translating the track into a fabric came about later.  It was the result of  another chance meeting, this time between Beatie and Nadia at a book launch.  Nadia was presenting her ‘Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds’ chair, which caught Beatie’s attention.

ChairPanelNadia’s Beatwoven designs

Beatie and Nadia came up with the idea of weaving a fabric from one of Beatie’s tracks, which would then be crafted into a jacket befitting a rock star, by David and his team of Hackney Wick-based tailors.  David was inspired by the military jackets made popular by Jimi Hendrix and particularly the strength of the shoulder line.  Jimi’s signature collar features too.


Jimi_Hendrix_by_Gered_MankowitzImage: Jimi Hendrix, Mason’s Yard, London, 1967. Photograph by Gered Mankowitz © Bowstir Ltd. 2012/Mankowitz.com

David’s tailoring is steeped in British history and culture, and the weaving of the fabric at a mill in Sudbury in addition to Beatie’s Brit singer-songwriter swagger makes this a very British collaboration from concept to completion.  This collaboration was driven by creativity.  There was no commercial aim, leaving the three collaborators to experiment with fabric selection and even change the garment from a gown to a jacket in the final few weeks of the project.

unspecified-9unspecified-6unspecified-12The weaving of Take Me Home – Images: Stuart Nicholls

unspecified-4Stuart Nicholls 4Design Development and colourway selection – Images: Stuart Nicholls

The unveiling of the collaboration took place at an intimate gig at 34 Montagu Square and was subsequently launched at DLD in Germany, where Beatie spoke about her album and the serendipitous collaboration that arose from her chance meeting with David.

Stuart Nicholls 2Beatie and her pack performing Take Me Home at 34 Montagu Square

Delving a little deeper into the fabric creation, Nadia explained that the resulting fabric is dependent on the frequency and ‘fullness’ of the track.  Electro and synth-driven music leads to intense and densely detailed digital imagery in her customised software, which effectively creates a visual representation of the sound according to frequency and amplitude.  Conversely, classical music, which tends to contain moments of little or no sound, creates sparser digital patterns.  Nadia manipulates the patterns to create graphic visual effects that have a sensibility toward the final design and the inspiration.  It’s a fascinating practice that arose from a passion for sound and dance and evolved from an analogue incarnation into a fully-fledged piece of software, to which she is hoping to add a customising functionality for her private clients.

David explains the process of toileing and fitting that any tailor or pattern-cutter would be familiar with.  The basted and canvas-lined toile remains in the Hackney Wick studio should Beatie request another bespoke jacket any time soon. David’s tailors crafted the jacket from the silk/cashmere/silver jacquard made in a satin twill structure requiring deft hands to control the movement and stability of the fabric.  It’s like liquid gold and my experience tells me it would have been a difficult fabric to work with –  which David confirms.

unspecified-8unspecified-11unspecified-10David Mason’s Anthony Sinclair Tailors creating the Take Me Home Jacket – Images: Stuart Nicholls

DSC01018The Mr Fish ‘Peculiar’ customised label for Beatie Wolfe

The final result is a digi-inspired piece of cultural history.  Inspired by Beatie, translated by Nadia and crafted by David.  It’s a beautiful creation that transcends each of them as individual artists and creatives and tells a story about British craftsmanship and the power of musical culture.  The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston has expressed an interest in exhibiting the piece, which further illustrates the significance of its craftsmanship and powerful storytelling ability.

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Rhythmic moments in time distilled into a fabric and crafted into a piece of sartorial history – this is more than fashion, more than music and more than technology.  The sum of these parts is enlightening, inspiring and unexpected.  34 Montagu Square has a magical quality, says Beatie. ” There’s something about this room”.  I tend to agree.

Stuart NichollsThe collaborators: Beatie Wolfe, David Mason and Nadia-Ann Ricketts at 34 Montagu Square – Image: Stuart Nicholls

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I Was Passed Over For a Job Because I’m a Virgo: Astrology, Pseudoscience and Fashion

“Why can people become fashion designers overnight but not architects?” asked Hussein Chalayan in our interview last week (to be published in full next week).  Because our industry has been cheapened and the discourse around it is not serious, was his explanation – one which I fully accept.  An article I read in the Evening Standard’s “ES Magazine” last night proved that point, and then some.  Fashion has sold itself short by celebrating ‘overnight’ celebrity designers and buying into (pun intended) pseudoscience.

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The ES article written by Stephanie Theobald entitled “Signs of the Times” reported on fashion’s apparently growing obsession with the zodiac and astrology.  Not astronomy, astrology.  I have nothing against people choosing to indulge in fantasy for fun, but when it is used as a tool to define groups of people and put them in shopping categories according to star sign-based ‘personality traits’ that’s when I get incensed.  Not only because they’re wrong about the traits and personal style (astrology is completely made up and is not based on any proven science) but because it further cheapens the fashion industry, especially with the bizarre suggestion that fashion designers’ work is being informed or driven by astrology and star signs.

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Selfridges’ Christmas windows represent the twelve signs of the zodiac and their christmas shopping offer extends to selections based on star signs.

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12105717_10153237753315678_6968959552349349389_nSelfridges Christmas windows in the theme of the zodiac

Cue my disbelief and horror, especially on seeing the Virgo selection, which is particularly bland and couldn’t be further from my personal style.  No doubt it’s a successful marketing strategy (and the windows look spectacular) but the zodiac being considered anything other than fantasy grates.

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The “Virgo Edit”

Notions of alchemy and recent claims that textiles and leather garments can react to brain waves are similarly fantastical and do a disservice both to science as a discipline and fashion’s strides to work with and integrate real and believable technology into design.  Enough of the gimmicks.

A strange and frankly bizarre situation arose recently when during a job interview, the interviewer – a design director of a well-known mid-level fashion brand – asked me three questions about my star sign.  He actually opened the interview by suggesting that it must have been difficult for me working with a well-known virgo designer at a previous consultancy job and asked how I managed the working relationship on that basis.  I explained that this designer had not worked there during this period, but he proceeded to ask two more star sign-related questions.  He suggested I must be a very determined person (his body language suggested difficult) with strict attention to detail (his body language this time suggesting obsessive).  Suffice to say, the feedback from my agent was that the interviewer felt that he didn’t have a connection with me right from the off.  Wait, was this a relationship proposal or a job interview based on the professional assessment of my skills and aptitude?  As I was fully qualified (hence being invited for the interview in the first place) I have deduced my star sign was at least partly my downfall.   After I hung up the call from my agent on hearing this feedback I thought to myself, “only in fashion would this happen”.  Would an architect be judged based on their star sign?  Would architects be categorised according to their star sign and judgements made about their character on such a flimsy basis? Doubtful.

What is the difference between Astrology and Astronomy? Broadly speaking, Astrology is a pseudoscience based on the search for human meaning in the sky.  Astronomy is the scientific study of the sun, moon and stars, which means experiments are conducted based on hypotheses and then theories and if proven they are published.  These proven theories are tested and the experiments recreated by other scientists in the field, meaning that the scientific community verify the proof and then do more experiments based upon that proof to expand our understanding of the universe.  The key difference here is rigorous academic study and proof.  Up until the 17th century astrology was studied and contributed to the development of astronomy, but scientific discoveries made after the 17th century proved that astrology’s notions of the sky having a magical effect on earth and human beings were false and therefore astronomy’s academic study ceased.

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MoonGownAna Gonzalez’s Astronomy-inspired gown

If your Christmas present is from Selfridges and seems like an odd choice made arbitrarily, it’s probably because it was chosen according to your star sign, not you.  Thank goodness for refunds.

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Fyodor Golan: The Fashion Designers Collaborating with Microsoft and Hasbro to Create the Smart Phone Skirt and Transformers Sweaters

It’s an insightful and warm conversation that plays out in the depths of Somerset House where Fyodor Podgorny and Golan Frydman, the designers behind fashion label Fyodor Golan, invite me into their temporary studio while their usual one is undergoes renovation. Golan tells me they’re arranging pre-collection production now, then beginning their main line production before moving onto designing the AW16 collection, which launches at London Fashion Week in February. Phew! The fashion wheel keeps on turning…

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IMG_6716Production at the Fyodor Golan studio

Fyodor points out very early in the conversation that the fashion industry has changed dramatically since their Fashion Fringe launch seven seasons ago. Their evolution as designers and as business owners has been just as dramatic. They began by making restrictive, complex couture and changed direction when they gained global attention and realised that one Fyodor Golan woman did not exist – there are many. She comes in all shapes, sizes and ages and she doesn’t want to wear a corset. The philosophy of making their clothing lighter and easier sits well alongside two designers who are natural, pragmatic and thoughtful. Their customers speak, they listen.

00070big_1Fyodor Golan Fashion Fringe Winning Collection, 2011

Fyodor explains that the internet explosion and uptake of social media means that the old system of designers dictating whole customer ‘looks’ died with Instagram’s birth and has fertilised the Fyodor Golan brand’s growth.  It’s safe to say they are happy with fashion’s democratisation and credit fashion bloggers and clients styling their own looks on social media as sources of inspiration, revealing their fashion personalities and breaking down the ‘whole designer look’ phenomenon.

They gain new clients across the globe who contact them directly for special one-off pieces or to purchase garments directly on the strength of an Instagram image.  This is a powerful tool and leads us to contemplate whether the relentless pre-prescribed fashion industry collection schedule makes sense.  Do they need it? As a small label they are still responsive and in touch with their clients and that is a strength and competitive advantage.  Fyodor explains that he would love to make mini collections every three months, freeing them from the restrictive shackles of fashion’s seasonal calendar.  I notice from images and seeing first-hand the constructed textiles of their pre-collection that they are no less ambitious in terms of materials and concepts when creating their pre-collections, in contrast to some designers who approach these as “mainline lite” collections in terms of design and realisation.  It’s clear Fyodor Golan don’t take short cuts and invest their energy into realising ideas, not churning out product.  I admire them and I admire their ease and resolve. They know exactly why they are creating their collections, and it’s not just for the sake of it or because the fashion calendar says it’s time to churn another one out. They have recently launched resort S/S16, deciding to create one pre-collection per year instead of the standard two, in addition to their two mainline collections (Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter) so that they can maintain some balance and not stretch themselves too thinly.

IMG_6750Fyodor Golan Resort S/S16 postcards

This leads us to a discussion about the recent exit of Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz from their fashion design and creative directorships of Dior and Lanvin respectively. As admirers of both designers, Fyodor and Golan discuss the unrealistic expectations on such designers to conceive and oversee the execution of upwards of eight collections a year, plus accessories, fragrances and in some cases retail spaces.  Being spread too thinly kills creativity.  We know it and have experienced it.  Golan wrestles with it when having to abandon concepts for collections part way through the development phase because he does not have the time and means to see them through.  He talks of being forced to wade through admin work and arrange business transactions in order to meet responsibilities to staff and suppliers – people have to be paid on time – leaving his unrealised ideas lingering.  It’s a tough and bitter pill that leaves doubt in the mind of a designer as to whether they have accomplished what they set out to and whether their vision has evolved into full bloom. The idea of the creative exploration being curbed too soon is a brutal one, especially considering a collection takes up to six months to create and is presented in around 6 minutes on the runway. If you don’t get to finish your sartorial sentence it’s an all too abrupt ending.

Fyodor Golan have embraced technology and the changing fashion landscape more than most. By launching a smart phone skirt collaboration with Nokia Lumia and a Microsoft-powered runway show with an impressive pyramid installation displaying projections from Nokia Lumia cameras in the front row, they have been at the frontier of experimenting with how tech gadgets can interact with fashion.  Their forays into combining fashion and technology have been facilitated by the Fashion Innovation Agency, spearheaded by FashionTech stalwart Matt Drinkwater.

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Fyodor-Golan-Nokia-3Fyodor Golan x Nokia Lumia smart phone skirt in collaboration with research and design studio Kin

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LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: Fyodor Golan and Lumia 830 blend digital with reality to reinvent the catwalk show at London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015 on September 12, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)

Kin_FG_01SS15 FG x Microsoft + Nokia Lumia

Both designers are at ease combining fashion and technology, but also recognise its current limitations.  The limitations they cite come as a shock. Where previously I believed the lack of collaboration between technology and fashion designers lay with the designers’ lack of affinity for tech or a mismatch between the tech and the textiles or aesthetics, what it truly comes down to (at least in part) is the insistence on a new product outcome within a very short and strict timeframe.  One year to innovate and create a whole new fashion tech product? “How is that possible?” asks Golan.  The expectation of technology companies during pre-collaboration discussions with Fyodor Golan has been to create a new tech-driven product to sell within 12 months.  There appears to be a lack of appetite for experimentation for its own sake and for exploring long-term, ambitious and integrated fashion tech innovations in this collaborative environment.  Maybe that’s why fashion and technology aren’t integrating seamlessly and desirably yet – at least in the wearables space.

Fyodor and Golan are experimenters with spirit. They have a penchant for grabbing familiar references and layering textiles in a way that captures the imagination.  Their clothes are bright, bold, fun and attractive.  They’re highly tactile and attention grabbing. It’s hard to imagine not feeling happy and celebratory wearing their printed, vinyl, ruffled neoprene shift dress with neon trims. It’s a recognisable silhouette, making it firmly wearable, but it’s shaken off any shift-dress dowdiness by way of neon trims and chunky metal zips and the unexpectedly successful pairing of roses, ruffles and neoprene. SOLD!

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Their latest SS16 collection, which launched at London Fashion Week, evolved out of an existing collaboration with toy maker Hasbro.  The designers used My Little Pony as inspiration for their A/W15  ‘Rainbow Wheels’ collection and when offered the chance to delve into the Hasbro Transformer archives for S/S16 they grabbed it.

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my_little_pony_sabor_abbigliamento_licenzatarioA/W 15 collection in stores now

Unfortunately I’m not able to view and publish those original images, suffice to say that the bright colours and bold transformative nature of Transformers comes through at least in the spirit of the collection, and through the Transformer-inspired prints on sweatshirts. Being in the priviledged position of seeing never before published Transformer sketches the collection spontaneously erupted into a cacophony of colour and graphics.

IMG_6711Golan and the ‘front row’ Transformer

IMG_6715FG x Kat Maconie S/S 16

A smattering of Geisha-inspired silhouettes and accessories (the shoes were a collaboration with Kat Maconie) give gravity to the playful colours and prints.  The indigo pieces are a personal favourite and appear to ground the collection amongst the flurry of digital prints, vinyl and colour.

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Fyodor Golan is the unexpected.  The designers themselves define it as ‘a spirit’. I define it as a breath of fresh air. They’re as candid as their clothes.  And that’s rare.

Header Image: Noctismag

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Noma’s Food Language, GPS-Tracked Garbage and the World Exclusive of Pussy Riot’s Dismaland Music Video. It must be WIRED 2015, Part 2!

Continuing in the theme of Artificial Intelligence (covered in part 1), Carlo Ratti presented some exciting work from the MIT Senseable Cities Lab.  Standouts were a trackable waste project where members of the public brought in 3000 pieces of garbage which were then fitted with GPS sensors and tracked, with alarming results.  Some objects made it across America and were still on the move after two months.  The project increased awareness of recycling and changed participants’ garbage disposal behaviours.

Carlo then demonstrated that the implication of self-driving cars in the future will extend beyond safety (eliminating human error – the cause of over 90% of road traffic accidents) to reducing congestion.  Traffic lights would be eliminated and a slot-system used by interconnected cars sensing each other’s position to avoid collision.  The potential use of one self-driving car to drive all the members of a family (and their friends/neighbours) to their respective destinations, blurring the lines between private and public transport, is an interesting prospect too.  With such a system, cities could meet all residents’ current transport requirements with only 20% of the number of cars that are currently on the road, based on journey research done in New York.  Imagine the reduction in traffic, congestion and improvement to air quality?!  Lastly, Carlo showed us a video of UAV-enabled app, SkyCall, created to respond to requests from MIT visitors to guide them to whichever room number they tap into their app.  The UAV talks the visitor though the sights on campus along the way. On a campus with hundreds of rooms scattered over a vast area it’s a cool idea.  I wonder if it could be used for events; Directing people to the correct seat at a fashion show, or the theatre, perhaps.  Check it out here:

The afternoon session was opened by Rene Redzepi and brought culinary adventure to proceedings with a detailed foray into the scientific experiments of the famous Danish restaurant he co-founded, Noma.

Noma create flavours.  They seek not to use ingredients for dishes but to make building blocks of flavour that can then be combined to create either a sauce, or a dish.  It’s akin to writing a new food language, with the building blocks being new words (new flavours) and the combination of them (the sentence) being the dish, as explained by Noma R&D chef Lars Williams, accompanied by Arielle Johnson, flavour scientist.  Fermentation is what underpins this language, and through a series of taste tests they demonstrate that fermentation is a cooking utensil at Noma, rather than simply a technique.  It is their chief mode of experimentation and gives rise to new and complex flavours that develop over time.  Lars explains that these new flavours cannot be manufactured.  The ingredients are controlled precisely in DIY vessels they made out of shipping containers that have a range of minus 50 to plus 60 degrees and exacting humidity control.  It’s a fascinating insight, and given that it’s a non-profit initiative serving only 45 covers for each of their lunch and dinner service, it’s admirable.

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IMG_6064Cute illustrations by flavour scientist Arielle Johnson

We were given a goodie bag of vials from the Noma kitchen to taste during Lars and Arielle’s talk, one of which contained fermented grasshopper garum, which had a fishy miso-like flavour.  Here’s how Lars makes it:

Here’s Noma’s story in the words of Rene Redzepi:

The food-inspired architects responsible for the following imagery, Christopher Pierce and Christopher Matthews take food and turn it into materials, shapes and schematics for buildings and landscapes.  Their imagination runs riot and gives rise to a world of food-based experiments that result in fantastical architectural plans.

IMG_6084The moving urban farm plan, Copenhagen

IMG_6091 Architectural plan for a city decomposing left to right

The images below are from a project to create architectural plans from leeks.  The leeks were dehydrated in an oven and into which porcelain was poured to reveal the dried layers inside, to stunning effect.

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For more information about the two Christophers projects click here

The perfect punctuation for these meaty (sorry, I couldn’t resist) talks was live music curated by Denzyl Feigelson, founder of AWAL, including breakthrough Brit artist Izzy Bizu, who is currently touring with Rudimental.  She came over to say hi after her stunning performance of White Tiger to let me know my knitted outfit and multi-coloured platform trainers had caught her eye whilst she was singing.  I promptly dispensed my card so keep an eye out for Izzy Bizu in Brooke Roberts Knitwear.

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A medical imaging treat came in the form of Neuroscientist Sophie Scott’s MRI scan of Reeps One beatboxing.  It’s a fascinating insight into the function of the brain during execution of complex sounds and the areas of the brain most active while generating them.  It satisfied my craving for medical images as an ex-radiographer of two months.

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The theme of Intelligence runs throughout all the talks at Wired 2015, whether derived from the application of AI or applied following analysis of Big Data, the future looks set to provide better healthcare, safer roads, cleaner cities and a more connected global community.  The day wraps up with a softly-spoken but defiant instalment by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot notoriety.  Although she didn’t speak on digital activism as billed, she lent a voice of independent thought and personal struggle.  She spoke of her belief in a life without borders and declared herself a citizen of the world.  Opening with a joke that went something like “When travelling, at border control the officer asks ‘Occupation’? I say no, just a holiday”.

Wearing a dress inscribed “Non Stop Feminist” and “My body is a battleground”, apparently echoing the words in artist Barbara Kruger‘s 1989 piece ‘Untitled (Your Body is a Battleground)’ – a visual commentary on women’s rights over reproduction and the continued feminist struggle – she has an aura of rebellion and delivered a mandate based on living and acting outside the parameters of what she described as slow inert governments.  She cited technology as a tool for rebellion and free speech, which seems refreshingly simple after a day of high-concept tech and rampant futurism (not a complaint,  it’s just a welcome grounding moment to think of the here and now and reflect on where we are).

Reflecting on the talks and ideas shared today by the world’s game changers and askers of questions most of us have never come close to contemplating (until now), it strikes me how readily members of the art, architecture, science and technology communities collaborate across disciplines.  A chemist working with a chef at Noma, artist Eyal Gever collaborating with NASA on art in outer space, architects working with chefs to develop concepts for buildings and landscapes based on food, and the greatest thing is, the sum of the parts is richer, more surprising and arguably more legitimate for having sought beyond the boundaries of its own discipline.  It makes me wonder; why isn’t the fashion industry more eager to collaborate with those from other disciplines – scientists, architects, engineers?  The idea of legitimacy is a complex one, but it does seem that having outside input and therefore sharing credit for the design and presenting a collective rather than singular ‘vision’ is something fashion designers and perhaps the industry at large is very uncomfortable with.  In fashion, the Creative Director / Design Director is seen to possess the singular vision and takes all credit, making collaboration from an equal (and opposite) professional seemingly unwelcome.  I feel fashion’s the poorer for it.  You only have to look at the discomfort and awkwardness of the current FashTech/wearables offering to see that the fashion and technology industries are not really collaborating yet.  The most innovative strides being made in the fashion industry are in sportswear brands like Nike with their groundbreaking “Flyknit” trainers, which are a fusion of shoe design, creative coding, digital industrial knitting and engineering.  Another example is retailer Marks and Spencer, with their technical textiles and antibacterial, non-iron, machine-washable, teflon coatings that withstand years of abuse.  For all the hype about ‘creativity and innovation’ in the fashion industry, the visible and lauded designers aren’t leaping into the future, innovating or really questioning what is possible and trying something new.  They are not ready, or willing, to take the collaborative steps to do so, it appears.  The open source aspect of science and technology is a practice fashion could benefit from.  How do we learn and grow if we don’t share and question what we do?  How do we solve complex problems when only looking within the realms of what we already know rather than seeking the perspective and skills of other professions?

As I finish writing this article I get confirmation that Hussein Chalayan has agreed to an interview with me to discuss his contemporary dance collaboration at Sadlers Well, Gravity Fatigue and his work as a fashion designer.  So I’ll prepare to eat all of the last paragraph’s words, thankfully!

Nadezhda closes Wired 2015 with a world exclusive of the new Pussy Riot music video for “Refugee In” shot at Banksy’s Dismaland.

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And with a hop and a skip, she’s off!

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