The fashion fix
Can biodesign fix the environmental footprint of fashion? Tempus meets the remarkable designers who say yes
As the textile industry struggles to comprehend the scale of its environmental impact and how to improve it, a new generation of biodesigners are disrupting the industry by creating durable clothing and accessories out of organic materials, with mushrooms, slime and even human hair in the frame.
Today’s clothing industry has become synonymous with overconsumption, worker exploitation and a snowballing waste crisis that shows no sign of slowing. Yet, despite recognising the long-term viability of sustainable development, the industry still relies on using virgin petrochemical plastics and harmful production methods when churning out textiles to the global market.
For many, tackling these issues head-on seems like an impenetrable and costly task, but for these revolutionary designers, it presents an opportunity to explore bio- informed strategies to drive sustainable innovation.
London-based textile designer Isabel Fletcher works predominantly with production waste by manipulating and dyeing offcuts to create functional works of art and, just like Chip[s] Board, views byproducts of fashion not as waste but as the “starting point for further design”.
Using polylactic plastic, Isabel (below) created bespoke tortoiseshell buttons, which featured in her 2018 clothing collection Offcuts One. The collection celebrated discarded and sustainable materials – such as British wool, hemp, linen and bamboo – and explored the bolder shapes and colours seen in the layering of waste materials in a workshop space.
The importance of traceability and transparency in society is woven into the fabric of Isabel’s collections, and it is clear that her designs mean much more to her than a garment on a hanger. Since the launch of Offcuts One, Isabel has released more collections based around the idea of repurposing landfill waste. Using natural dyes to create earthy tones, Isabel used her designs to educate viewers to make changes in their micro world to generate a macro impact in her latest release, Offcuts Two (2020) and 2021 collaboration with UK clothing brand Toast.
“I’m using textiles as an art form to talk about a concept which is broader than design – it’s about our daily lives and our ways of living,” says Fletcher. “It’s about the small acts of checking what’s gone into your food or questioning how a product is packaged and if you can buy an item of clothing second hand or brand new – it’s about thinking and consuming less as a result.”