Introducing British fashion designer Patrick McDowell with his collection inspired by climbing experiences at the age of 6 years old with his father. Between sustainability and strong aesthetics, meet a designer that truly has a message to spread
Can you introduce yourself? I was born in a small industrial city in China. I started my own label in 2018, after graduating from Central Saint Martins womenswear course 3 years ago. What are your main inspirations for this collection? I was inspired by the …
Who are you?
How to define you when you are the representation of multiculturalism?
Which label will be assigned to you by the society?
As a person from a migrant family, the identity issues are deeply present. The questions can be infinite. As our society needs to put a tag on people, for those kind of individuals – torn between different cultural influences – it’s often hard to define themselves because of their multiple layers. When you’re a child and you live among people who have a more clear socialization, you might think that you are the one who is abnormal. Of course, when the color of your skin is also different, the distinction can go further because of this obvious difference. I don’t want to talk about racism here but more about integration obstacles and also about the pressing need to categorize. When you’ve been raised in this type of context, defining your place within society is always harder. Indeed, it’s complicated because you cannot fit properly into the label system. Besides this society pressure, you can sometimes feel apart because you might not have exactly the same references than others. It’s clear, as a member of a society, you have been influenced by the culture, the norms, the values. Nevertheless, additional reference set has been given by your family during the socialization process. Your first socialization made in the family context is the most important in self-structure mechanism. Thus, when the second one appears in the scholar context, it is going to be juxtaposed to the first one. In brief, you’ll adapt this new set of references to the first one. We know that socialization depends on many features of the social class. You’ll not have the same habits or postures according your social background whether you’re from a wealthy or modest family. Those elements are going to separate us but you’ll be member of a bigger sub-group. The labelling method is going to work in this type of position. This is not the case with the multiculturalism effect. The social mechanisms are disrupted.
So you might think right know that this phenomenon is so far from fashion. But it’s not. In our times of trouble and indecision, identity became a priority. This social obsession is spreading in every aspect of our lives. We can’t avoid it. Thus, designers have also their stories to tell, and sometimes integration and multiculturalism are the right terms to define their work influences. So this Mix & Match is about this issue faced also in the fashion and musical world. When you take a careful look on artists’ background you can find their main inspirations sources. This self game faced by them might be exhausted because they have to play on various fields at the same time. They have been influenced by outside-family social interactions and also they are self based on their own identification. Fashion & Art can help this auto-identification. Making art can be an efficient way to build your own identity on yourself.
Fashion – Courtney Anne Mitchell
Courtney is a talented designer graduated from Central Saint Martins. The looks used for this video come from her graduated collection. Here is how she explains her creations:
“I think that my collection was quite nostalgic as it was specifically inspired by my Grandmother and a generation of people she belongs to. It has this mixture of identities, sort of trying to assimilate into ‘Britishness, whilst remaining very Caribbean and having influences from the home that has been left behind. For my show I used British/Jamaican old school dancehall as it reflected that message – the mixture of Cockney (London slang) and Patois (Jamaican dialect)”
Music – PKNE (Penda Gueye)
She created this song especially for this project. Penda is an artist based in France. Learning how to do music by herself, here is how she explains her universe in general:
“Music has always been a part of me, I was raised by African music, R’n’B, Hip-Hop, electro…. I started to make music two years, it took me a lot to try, I wasn’t really confident about myself and of course did not know anything about composing music, but the desire was so strong, I tried. I learned all by myself, I’m an autodidact, I think that music is kind of mystical. When you decided to join her, she embraces you with love and tenderness. I actually decided to live in Africa (Dakar) to learn more about myself, so it can reflect on my music »
This association is about integration and multiple identities. The designer and the musician came from two different countries, however they both have an heritage given by their family. Juxtaposed to this first socialization, they also deal with another culture given by their country of birth. Tackled to this multiple identities, their self would be shaped by the environment, the interactions. Therefore, to verbalize this duality, we choose to shoot in two areas geographically close but different, East Dulwich and Peckham. A garden made the transition between the two neighborhoods. In these two areas, the character is using different part of her self. She evolved at the same time in a traditional British neighborhood but not only. Indeed, in Peckham she deals with Caribbean’s influences because of the cosmopolitan aspect of this area. She can reconnect with her roots given by her parents while being impacted by her motherland’s culture. The communication between her various “self” allows her to be integrated in different environments where specific behaviors are going to take place. This necessity to juggle with all these identities can be explained by the labeling need which is present in our society. It is hard to put a tag on a person shaped by multiple influences. Thus, to fit into this social system, using different self allows the interaction process with the others to take place. In this video, the character goes beyond her own personality to share with us the different layers of her identity and how she managed to be in harmony with her environment. Throughout her clothes she expresses her various identities.
When I started Platform, I wanted to express my fashion vision and show things beyond simple trends and clothes. This multi-disciplinary approach is a way to present fashion as a part of a bigger project. At the beginning, I didn’t expect any results. I was …
What I especially love in fashion is brand’s commitment ?️ Edun is a good example of how to express a true commitment in the fashion industry. This brand has been created in 2005 by Ali Hewson & Bono (the famous U2 Singer). In April 2013, …
Have you seen the latest communication campaigns in the Fashion industry? Have you noticed how authenticity is becoming the main argument?
I don’t know if it’s a reality, although, this had me wondering. During many years, fashion and trends were in total association with specifics criteria such as thin, tall, white…
Nowadays we can see plenty of differences in terms of shapes, colors and faces in the fashion industry. I think, as many phenomenon, this can be explained by the evolution in our society. By evolution, I mean the way people think and see the social lifestyle. We come from a long journey.
After the financial crisis in 2008, the conception of life was deeply changed. People have come to understand the weaknesses in our society. The capitalism had appeared as a curse that consumes the humanity. People were selfish and dehumanized in this context. Turns out, that people were bored about this tense atmosphere. It is hard to fully blossom in an society where hope is not a possibility and greed is the main value. This crisis brings a new philosophy that takes place in many areas. The notion of consumption has changed to become something that involves commitment. People want to find a cause to be involved in. They are all looking for different feelings, but they all need to consume something that reflects their values, ideas, and conceptions.
Because of this social phenomenon, brands need to follow the same flow. It means that their communication, their storytelling is driven by a fundamental term:Humanization. This process takes various forms such as personalization, intellectualism… I’m going to give you some examples. Suzanne Rae : The Real Philosophy – Autumn Winter 2017. Suzanne Rae is an emerging brand from Brooklyn created six years ago. This is a good example in terms of using authenticity as the main communication message. The designer, Suzanne Peleaz is trying to talk to the modern women by using concepts that redefine fashion and luxury. With a feminist philosophy, the brand creates minimalist outfits that are relevant and functional for women. This idea is the opposite of some fashion conception holding by brand such as Chanel, where the main utility of a outfit is to be beautiful, without thinking about the well-being of women or the impact on environment. By creating wearable collection, Suzanne wants to show that fashionable can be associated with making women feel comfortable in their outfits.
Vetement : « Exploring Reality » – Autumn Winter 2017. Demna Gvasalia, the little favorite in fashion industry these days, is taking the same path in terms of authenticity. For his fashion presentation at « Le Centre Pompidou » in Paris for his AW17 collection, models were replaced by everyday people. This fashion show was a pageant of stereotypes available in street. From the « bourgeoise » old lady to the wild punk, many profils were represented. A rich mix of looks and atmospheres. This show was not only about fashion, it gave the opportunity to read our society throughout outfits. In my opinion, this fashion show went above the regular representations. Demna has shown us the social role of fashion.
Today is about Afrofuturism ?️ I always have been fascinating by African culture and history. Perhaps because of my origins. Therefore, when I see a fashion label that promote this continent, I’m always receptive. I know, I can’t say that I am totally objective. …
When styling is a mix of lo-fi, sophistication and boldness Georgia Pendlebury is a freelance stylist and the creative director of the well-known publication Novembre Magazine. I deeply love this magazine because of many reasons such as their selection of photographers, fashion labels and stylist. …
Mimi Wade February 2020 – Courtesy of Platform
Here we are in December 2020 with a global pandemic that is still running around the globe. At first, we didn’t really know how to react to this unexpected phenomenon. However, now that we are into the first year of this health emergency, it feels that we don’t have any choice but to adapt our lifestyle to this new reality -or normal. While I was really thinking about Fashion Week being cancelled this year, it seems the fashion industry – at least the establishment labels – is not ready to give up on its old habits.
Last year, the question of cancelling this event was already part of the options considered. As the ecological emergency was already a reality, it would have been a way to avoid any more pollution or waste. But it seems like even a global pandemic is not able to make the fashion industry question its own harmful mechanisms. Often, the response of these brands feels completely off the mark. Besides feeling deeply irrelevant this year, the Fashion Week is also the scene of social claims exploitation. This season is the one of ‘Woke Washing’. I truly think this was the best concept introduced lately. ‘ refers to the action for a company to exploit struggles faced by actors into the social structure in order to fake commitment and to make profit out of it. This action is simply pernicious since it alters the deep meanings of these causes. The danger of activism into the fashion industry is totally out of control. This season should have been about taking perceptives and reflecting on the pace of the fashion industry. Traditional Fashion Weeks should have been cancelled this year and we should have all accept it.
While London and New-York were mainly digital this season, Milan and Paris chose to maintain the physical catwalks while trying to respect social distancing restrictions. France was – at the time of this event – in middle of a second wave of COVID-19 with more than 12 000 contaminations within 24 hours. Ignoring risks seems a dangerous game to play since we are ignoring a lot of aspects about this virus. More than stick to the regular program, some of the collections presented were clearly abusive and pointless. Louis Vuitton introduced more than 100 looks this season for its SS21 Menswear collection – ignoring completely the public claims regarding overproduction. Besides having too many looks, this collection feels very poor in terms of creative design and research. It is hard for me to understand how we are still discussing this matter after all that happened this year.
Despair feels the appropriate feeling when thinking about the state of the fashion industry lately. Nevertheless, as it is crucial to stay hopeful, I have to admit that some of the solutions explored by designers this year to introduce their collections were deeply ingenious. It sets the ton for the future possibilities we have in terms of presenting new creations. Dutch designer based in Amsterdam, Duran Lantink recently collaborated with Names Digital to elaborate a VRC C4D showroom. This immersive and virtual experience were displaying Duran’s recycling designs in a brutalist decor gathering a lot of artistic details. It is easy to spend a lot of time, observing this online bubble. Slowing down the pace by appreciating fully the creation and its details. This approach is in line with the concept of slow fashion defined as » the movement of designing, creating, and buying garments for quality and longevity. It encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste. » (Study NY)
Duran Lantink x Names Digital virtual showroom
While speaking to Richard Thornn, PR manager at Names Digital, we can see that this digital approach is also a way to fit with the audience’s emerging aspirations. » Fashion shows/seasons need to slow down if not stop. The consumer today does not follow trends, colour stories or seasonal needs but acts more on an emotional connection to the brands they love. As we move into a truly digital era, brands will need to become more conscious, purposeful and innovative in the way they present themselves. » With ten years of experience in this field, Richard has helped to produce some of the most thrilling exemples of wearable tech « with companies such as Studio XO, as well as working for Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas which really allowed [her] to truly push the boundaries of fashion. » As a Creative Director, he is working in this grey space between fashion and tech to create innovative solutions able to morph the digital landscape. « My aim is to grow a fashion tech business which pioneers and to create these opposing industries to work in harmony. I see this as a life long ambition not a comic or gag, it’s not just a moment in time digital is here to stay » he adds.
Duran Lantink x Names Digital virtual showroom
Richard likes to visualise a Digital Utopia where you can explore shared digital experiences. Deeply bound to the Gen Z – that « are using tech in the shared economy, expiring their identity across IRL and DRL (Digital Real Life) » – this concept embodies future aspirations and approaches. « Gone are the days of scrolling endless pages, gawping at images, we now see a trend towards fashion kids walking through virtual worlds and exploring brands on a much more ethereal and emotional level » says Richard. Nowadays, the fusion of gamification and fashion is in the zeitgeist and it gives an opportunity to Monica and NAMESldn to be a pioneer in this alternative era.
Besides being the future of fashion, this digital approach allows to embrace a more sustainable path. Thanks to digital shows, they are cutting out the large runways productions without taking away the magic of such events. Equally, the same environmental advantages are visible for sampling, shots and shops. For him, digital allows « less waste and carbon footprint. Fashion is one of the main contributors to why our planet is dying and fighting back. We need to stand up and make a change. » A change is coming that it is for sure. As mentioned by Richard, physical shows have long been a dying art form. « We live in a world now where technology is everywhere yet fashion being the ‘trend setter’ is the last to join the movement » he continues. In this undefined area, there is a chance to build a fashion space that fits better the coming age. For Richard it is an opportunity to create a system that is more inclusive and diversified. It could allow us to transpose it in the reality as well. As the possibilities and options are endless, we don’t need to restrict our ideas and minds while defining this Digital Utopia. As long as there is a reliable wifi, they are able to create « anything you can imagine with a team of hybrids from across the fashion, graphics, gaming and tech industries. » One of the keys for the future of fashion shows lays in the interaction of fashion with tech fields. For Richard, « the wonder of digital is just emerging » and this is certainly an exciting period to explore.
Although the potential of digital shows is unquestionable – especially in the years to come, it won’t be the only way to present collection as mentioned by knitwear designer Khanh Brice Nguyen. Research shows that although interest for online experiences are growing, the physical and human aspect for labels remain essential to connect with the audience. Forecasts highlight that in the future, a lot of e-commerce will invest in physical shops as a way to encourage a more local approach. We could suggest that for fashion presentations, the trend will be the same.
Auné Pop-Up Store
During the first lockdown, Khanh and I had an interesting speculative conversation about the future of fashion weeks and fashion shows. Like Richard, he is convinced that « fashion weeks have been irrelevant for several years. They were dragging on for too long, with too many types from women, men, couture, overlapping each other. Not to mention the fashion week marathons from one city to the other. I don’t think anyone – from the audience to the brands themselves- were able to keep up with all of that. » While questioning the actual system, the notion of pace is often mentioned as a real problem. We come to a point where it is hard to truly appreciate collections or concepts since we don’t really have the time to truly mentally proceed them. According to Khanh shows are about creating a moment, an emotion. The energy given by such event cannot be replaced by digital, however there is no need to wait fashion week to present collections. « I think brands should curate those events when it feels relevant to them, when they are ready for it and have something to say that they can only be produced live. It would be just like releasing a movie or dance show. You don’t come on stage unless you have rehearsed enough and have something complete to show to the audience » he declares. Khanh thinks in the future, digital presentations will be mixed with digital showrooms.
This season, maintaining physical shows were unnecessary – « if not even irresponsible and unsafe, since we were still under tight social distancing measures. » On the other hand, independent and emerging labels proposed exciting and interesting ways to showcase their collections. For instance Steven Passaro « a Paris-based designer, which involved Virtual Reality. He invited a few guest to see physically his collection in a showroom. When they put goggles on, they could see the clothes evolving through VR. And for Instagram, a QR code sent by mail allowed to see the same digital projections that were shown through the VR goggles. » The association of physical and digital experience should be driven by one concept able to make a real difference in the narrative: Storytelling. By approaching each aspect through the lens of storytelling, brands would be able to elevate their game and make it consistent.
Courtesy of Khanh Brice Nguyen
To avoid woke-washing, we need to look for continuity in brands’ history and legacy. According to Khanh, » the audience and customers are the best judges here. We can easily spot if a brand message is authentic by matching it with their actions. In my opinion, transparency is key. Personally, I would never label my studio and my brand as eco-conscious, but I consistently share my process to the community and customers. » The need of authenticity is as important in the fight against woke washing than in the quest of relevant storytelling. It is important to see the latter as more than a simple marketing strategy. It defines the DNA of fashion labels and needs to be truthful to their vision. As an entity, brands owe transparency to their audience – as a sign of respect. « Setting your story straight out there helps define that and makes it relatable to others » as suggested by Khanh. Sharing your purpose through stories that allows to connect with customers will remain an essential factor in the future and this even though the digital sphere is growing. « Either it is about a certain body image you want to celebrate, or you want to represent a community, or you are about saving crafts, I think nowadays, you really need to have a purpose to have a brand.«
Going inevitably through a digitalisation of the fashion industry makes us questioned about alternatives form to create collections and to showcase them. In the future, we could think that only technological tools will lead the market but it is important to nuance such statement. Indeed, it is where there are abusive uses that more traditional ways are re-emerging and are recycling. For fashion shows, we should see increasing digital propositions, however, punctual events will be maintained to embrace deeper immersive experiences. It is by blending the two approaches the industry will be able to move forward in compliance with the social aspirations.
Deep social transformations have re-occurred these past few weeks and months, since the unfortunate murder of George Floyd. Not that police brutality is a new phenomenon. It has happened several times in the past without necessarily being shown or filmed. The violence and injustice towards Black communities existed prior to those events.
Fashion as we know it – in the western world, has borders. Its map, centered in specific places such as Paris, London, Milan or New York, was settled a long time ago and was transmitted from one generation to the next
Photographers Sackitey Tesa Mate-Kodjo and Yannis Davy, and fashion designers Marvin Desroc and Abiola Olusola are just some of the visionaries challenging Western stereotypes of Black bodies
“I wanted to use the medium of photography to fight the notion that creativity resides only in the West,” says Ghanian photographer Sackitey Tesa Mate-Kodjo. Throughout history, Western prejudices have oriented the way that Black bodies are portrayed, often heavily influenced by the history of slavery and colonisation. A new generation of creatives, including photographers such as Sackitey and Yannis Davy, and fashion designers such as Nicolas Guichard and Marvin Desroc are challenging these stereotypes. Through their imagery and clothes, these visionaries—from the African continent and diaspora—are reaching into their personal histories to accurately represent their realities and experience .
Cultural appropriation refers to the ‘the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.’ This concept implies the use of cultural codes of social minorities by a dominant group.
We are in an epoch where fashion needs to be more than simple garments. In an article wrote as a guest contributor for Geraldine Wharry, I explored the idea of fashion as a therapy. In times where the quest of well-being is one of the top social priorities, clothing can be a tool to improve people’s mental health and well-being. Using as a vessel of individual expression, items are also made to claim commitments or statements. Once we know that it goes beyond ephemeral and meaningless trends, fashion can embody an entire system of values and beliefs. Going even further, it can be a way to heal, mentally and physically.
To understand this specific function of garments, we need to look at the scientific part of the industry. Those past few years have been marked by a deep revolution in the material segment and it is involving a lot of scientific research and technology. What is deeply appreciable in this type of approach is the fact that it is challenging the common idea of fashion as a superficial field. Indeed, it elevates the field to another level, more relevant and meaningful. This is all the point of this Platform, rebuild the system by underlining initiatives that have a real and deep impact on our communities. Today, we are going to focus on Rosie Broadhead that is highly contributing to this process.
After studying ‘Material Futures’ at CSM, Rosie started her label by creating garments that have healing proprieties. I had the chance to meet her during London Fashion Week in February 2020 – before everything went in lockdown. We shot her capsule ‘Skin Series’ in her bedroom with the beautiful dancer Kaivalya Brewerton. The two collaborators and friends are genuinely creative souls that go above the simplistic conception of fashion to deliver a vision full of movements, substance and truly organic. By bringing together, fashion, art and science, Rosie’s collection includes one of a kind creations made to improve our lives and she also brings physical and mental benefits to clothing. I always wanted to know more about this segment of fashion and thanks to this interview, I feel Rosie gives us an informative glimpse of the opportunities given by the approach of clothing. Probiotic Clothing – as she calls it – is going above the need of sustainability required in the fashion industry. It is avoiding the use of chemical but also the impact of the latter on individual’s health. Rosie’s work and research brings awareness in an industry blinded by the quest of endless profit. Not only the need to reconsider is crucial for the planet but for our own well-being.
Can you explain how your studies at CSM as ‘Material Futures’ shaped the way you do fashion today?
MA Material Futures focuses on exploring how we will live in the future through craft, science and technology. The course encourages a broader approach to design through experimentation, collaboration, and cross-disciplinary studies. We don’t just look at design but study technical innovation, advances in science, social patterns, politics, the environment and human behaviour.
This new approach to design differs from my previous education in the fashion industry. This thorough research and development enables me to look beyond conventional fashion design, and in doing so promotes holistically sustainable practices. I was inspired by the innovation of fabric technology and the possibilities it offers and became fascinated by how what we wear can influence our performance, comfort and health.
How your experience in sportswear is influencing your current conception of fashion/ your current work?
My background is in material development and design within the fashion and sportswear industries. I have worked as a designer for luxury brands, and done R&D in sportswear, where the focus was on developing materials that would increase speed, comfort or / and wellbeing.
Some projects I worked on during my time at Rapha include testing the fastest combination of fabrics for the Team Sky Time Trial suit, and the best high vis colours for low level lighting. I have designed for luxury brands where the focus was on natural hand dyed fabric and locally and artisanal techniques. Currently, I work as a design and sustainability consultant for Ski Wear brand Perfect Moment where I focus on reducing environmental impact within performance sportswear.
My recent work considers the relationship with clothing and the body, and how science and technology will influence the future of fashion. My focus is on looking what is natural on our bodies to explore how we can create sustainable yet functional clothing.
Can you explain the collection we’ve shot – Skin Series ?
The ‘Skin Series’ capsule collection developed with stylist Wei Ting explores the current and future possibilities of wellness clothing. The Skin Series collection focuses on the bodies relationship with clothing as a permeable membrane. Our skin’s health is impacted by the fabric we wear. Incorporating naturally occurring bacteria into the textile helps to improve the quality of our skin.
So far, the series has developed a technique to incorporate probiotic bacteria (a bacteria which is common on the skin) and magnesium sulphate. I also make use of existing seaweed and milk protein textiles. All these ingredients have known therapeutic benefits for the skin and body. I wanted to develop a collection that explored the current and future possibilities of wellness clothing. The aim is to use what is natural on our bodies to advance the performance of clothing.
How technology will influence the fashion industry in the future according to you?
I would like to see technological developments in the medical industry to start influencing textile and fashion design. This would mean looking at the skin and clothing as one entity.
Textiles are traditionally known for their ability to soak up liquid but advances in fibre technology reveal that they have the capacity to release substances too. The health care industry relies on absorbent fibres to release medication through the skin through transdermal drug delivery. Through this kind of technology, it has enabled fibre and textile manufacturers to develop new concepts to the markets. Additionally, I would like to see a meaningful collaboration between scientists and designers in order for us to develop new materials and technology, not only to decrease environmental impact, but design in a way that is contemporary and relevant
What are biomaterials?
‘A biomaterial is any substance that has been engineered to interact with a biological system for a medical purpose, either a therapeutic or a diagnostic effect. I am working to manipulate the microbiome through biomaterials with ingredients that are already common and natural on our skin.
Can you explain your work on probiotic clothing – how does it created? how does it work?
Working in performance sportswear I became interested in the interaction between clothing and skin. My research into bacteria and skin started through my interest in how the body functions. I started to look at cosmetics and deodorants and how these products interact with skin. This led me to consider how I could incorporate this technology into clothing.
I worked closely with a microbiologist to develop ‘Probiotic Clothing’ by incorporating bacteria into textiles. The project focuses on the skin’s microbiome and how we can develop a healthy flora through science, technology and design. My focus is on looking at what is natural on our bodies to explore how we can create sustainable yet functional clothing. The idea is that it replaces the need for chemicals on textiles and the need for washing clothes so regularly. I think cross-disciplinary projects can provide new solutions to performance clothing and sustainability
Why is so important to you to create garments that have healing properties?
The skin is the largest organ in our body. Its complex surface and semi permeable membrane interact with our biology and the environment. The skin’s responsibilities include heat regulation, releasing toxins from the body through sweat and protecting us from chemicals and micro-organisms. The semi permeable nature of our skin has an important role that coordinates the function of our whole body. We spend so much time wearing clothing, but we often forget or are naive of the harmful chemicals that go into the makeup of the fabrics.
First and foremost, the health benefits come from not wearing performance clothing that has been treated with chemical finishes. These chemicals can be toxic to the body and therefore detrimental to the health of the wearer. Probiotic clothing is an alternative that provides deodorizing benefits and encourages cell renewal without toxic chemicals.
What are the benefits of your clothing on people’s health?
Optimal skin conditions depend on the probiotic bacteria or microbes that live on our bodies. Our skin’s biome is shaped by our natural environment, and what we put on and next to our skin has a direct impact on our bodies. Cosmetic products and fabric finishes on clothing can contain toxic chemicals, which disrupt the diversity of bacteria living on our skin. As the skin is a semi-permeable membrane these toxins, heavy metals and other pollutants can affect our health.
Probiotic Clothing explores the benefits of encapsulating probiotic bacteria into the fibres of clothing. These are activated when they come into contact with the moisture on our skin, allowing them to dominate other less beneficial bacteria. For optimal results, the probiotics are strategically placed in key areas where you would normally sweat. The encapsulated bacteria are associated with reduced body odour, encouraging cell renewal, and improving the skin’s immune system.
This process not only replaces the need for chemical fabric finishes, but also reduces the need to wash your clothes as frequently. Rather than relying on the properties of these chemicals I focus on what is natural on our bodies to advance the performance of clothing.
More than sustainability, do you think, in the upcoming years, healing clothes will be democratised?
As a designer I don’t believe we should design anything without considering sustainability, and the impact the materials and processes have on the environment. In my practice sustainability means looking closer at what is already natural and common on our bodies to develop more responsible solutions to performance wear.
A lot of focus is on the fashion industries unsustainable practices concerning waste and environmental impact, however much less is known about the use of chemical finishes on our clothing that can impact our bodies. Primarily, I wanted to create clothing that was healthy for our skin with minimal impact on the environment, which meant working with what is already natural on our bodies, the microbiome.
In terms of democratising therapeutic clothing, I believe if we have a better understanding of the compositions and finishes in our clothing, we will have more control on how to change that system. Once we understand the semi-permeable nature of skin, we will start looking after the skin in the same way we look after the rest of our bodies. Starting with what we wear
Where does your research on this matter – sustainability and healing garment – lead you?
Clothing can form a barrier between the body and environment and increase the ability of the body to function in a variety of settings. Performance wear promotes the idea that we can prepare ourselves for all contingencies; that your clothes can be completely functional. The aim of many designers of performance clothing is to foster and promote an equitable balance of self-sufficiency and connectivity with the environment
What are your projects and hopes for the next few years?
My collaborator and I have received a grant from Ghent University in Belgium to continue our research into probiotic clothing. Our hope is to commercialise the concept over the next couple of years. In the meantime, I am working on developing clothing which have healing and therapeutic benefits by making use of existing technology.
Do you think the current situation – Covid-19 – will be an opportunity to redefine the fashion system overall? How?
Considering fashion is one of the most polluting and also biggest consumables on the planet, this may be an opportunity of designers to become more resourceful and to search for materials and processes more locally. This could help develop a more circular design process, where we only use what is easily available to us, and responsible for where it ends up. This pandemic has the potential to affect consumer behaviour long- term. I think this is an exciting opportunity for designers and consumers to consider what is important.
Fashion comes from a long journey. Starting as an activity only made for an elite, its democratisation led to an over-consumption and a massive waste that dramatically hurt the environment.
‘Losing control’ as never been so relevant and meaningful than today. We are currently experiencing this notion in the deepest way. Even though this editorial was not created to highlight this uncontrolled context, this simple title can resonate with our actual lifestyle. When it comes to garment, the notion of ‘losing control’ drives us to a reflection on the role of clothes on human bodies.
Credit: Schueller de Waal Fashion Therapy
This piece was written before the crisis of Covid-19 by guest contributor Koura-Rosy Kane, writer of PLATFORM, a blog focused on emerging fashion. We chose to publish the original version of the article, as it felt foretelling of a Fashion Industry focused on caring for others, as we have seen many brands and individuals come together in the past few weeks during the coronovirus crisis.
Prior to the pandemic, we were facing many issues in terms of the stress inducing rhythm of this industry on its people and the planet, clearly pointing to the necessity for reforming our fashion system. The importance of supporting communities suggested in the piece appears even more relevant today and has in fact unfolded, since experiencing physical distancing and quarantine, further activating the urgency for collective Emotional Intelligence. Our need for fashion as a therapy has been amplified more than ever as one of the only options to make fashion meaningful again.
Using fashion as a medium to discuss mental health is not a new phenomenon. At the beginning of 2000, Alexander McQueen, tied between addictions, mental disorders and anxiety, used his shows to translate his inner thoughts to the world. His suicide at the end of this decade rattled the industry. This dramatic event shed light on the necessity to talk about mental health in the field. However, we would need to wait until the mid-2010 to deeply tackle this issue and bring it to the mainstream.