The adoption of fast fashion has had disruptive effects on environmental, social and behavioural factors globally. The drastic increase to the environmental impacts of textile waste and fast fashion consumption urgently need to be addressed. Making less wasteful clothes is no longer enough; we need to restructure the fundamentals of our global/economic fashion industry beginning with the destructive nature of our current mainstream relationship to clothing. This dynamic has significant consequences. Fashion consumption has become a passive act, and we no longer care for the longevity of our clothing. Clothing Is often disposed long before it reaches its expected life.
Biogarmentry is a vision of the future: a biotextile that lives through photosynthesis, removing harmful toxins in our air. Born from a collaboration with scientist and material engineers at University of British Colombia, the textile is a living, breathing material which uses cellular respiration to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. 100% natural and fully compostable, the living textile is dependant on its user for optimal health and growth, fundamentally challenging our current relationship to our clothes. Biogarmentory aims on bringing agency back to textiles, reducing the unmanageable impacts of the current fashion and textile industry on environmental, social and cultural levels through tackling our disconnection to clothing.
The negative impacts of textile and fashion industry are far greater than what is known or can be seen on the surface. From the 500,000 toxic nano-fibres that are released into water every time we wash our clothes, to the enormous carbon emissions emitted through both the production and disposal of our clothing, fashion has become a compromise that comes at a huge human, social, and environmental cost. Currently it is estimated that textile waste will contribute to more than a quarter of the carbon budget associated with a 2C pathway by year 2050. (Stella McCartney, "A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion's future") We are all part of this systemic violence through the clothes we buy, wear and discard. So how can we engage and empower ourselves to make a significant change in this matter? This drastic increase to the environmental impacts of textile waste and fast fashion consumption urgently need to be addressed. Fundamental changes, reconsiderations and active thinking are required in order to make a deep impact. Textile utilization has become an unconscious act. Now the question is how can we bring the lost agency back to this material?
What if our clothes were alive and photosynthesized?
Biogarmentry, is a transdisciplinary collaboration of nature, science and design where living organisms become the textile factories. In order to tackle the complex issue of textile and fashion industry the project takes a unique approach by merging the fields of synthetic biology, material science and design as a way to open up possibilities for the future of fashion. The product of the biogarmentry is a living and photosynthesizing textile, which works on implementing a deeper more holistic idea of change, creating a new material— while focusing on a transformation of our values, goals and collective behaviours around our consumption oriented habits — emphasizing on an ecological system, capable of lowering waste and carbon emissions. Born from a collaboration with AMPEL Lab and Botany Lab both from The University of British Columbia, the textile is a living-breathing material whose cellular respiration converts carbon dioxide into oxygen as plants do. Through this collaboration we explored the feasibility of creating the 'living and photosynthetic textile' by setting up of experiments focused on looking at science through the lens of design. As the first experiment we examined the survival of photosynthetic living cells on different kinds of natural fibres. After monitoring the cell's activity through PAM, promising results were gathered. For the next step, a mixture of culture and fibres were spun on culture's desired scaffold. The result was the first living and photosynthetic non-woven textile. After proving the feasibility of this project, Biogarmentry was presented at Fashion Colloquium 2018 Netherlands, Material Experience Lab at TU Delft, Pollima Material Revolution LA, Bioneers 2018 LA, Vancouver Design Week 2018 and gained undeniable attention.
This material innovation will leave positive impacts on all environmental, social and technological aspects of our current fashion world which will slowly shifts habits by bringing agency back to textiles. To give an illustration, It has been proposed by experts that one of the most effective steps could be taken in order to remove some of the social and environmental risks at the heart of current fast-fashion model is to encourage consumers to care for their clothes. To achieve this goal, the work has found a special condition in clothing that users will connect to—a living textile that is capable of photosynthesis. By making textiles alive, users will develop an emotional attachments to their garments which can help in maximizing the utilization. Since the life cycle of the living photosynthetic textile is directly dependent on how it is taken care of, caring for clothes would regain ascendance as a crucial part of the system—encouraging users to actively embrace habits that work to support the living textile to flourish. Biogarmentry ultimately introduces a shift from traditional models of buy, use, and dispose to buy, care, and compost. Moreover since keeping the garments alive needs some effort, users would buy less to manage to keep them alive. This helps to slow down the textile consumption and fast fashion movement.
All things considered, Biogarmentry aims to introduce an alternative future for textiles by exploring the application of biology in design. Through this project I hope to facilitate interdisciplinary research using design methodologies to study human engagement, aesthetics and systems, supported by scientific research and development. This project proposes the design of a photosynthetic textile not only as a step towards limiting our negative contributions to the environment, also offers the public an entry point to speculate on the future of textiles. Could a textile live and breath, clean the air while worn on the body? Can we learn to care for our clothes in ways that keeps them alive so they can reach their full utilization potential?