Textile Futures: Tomorrow’s Material World

The research-driven MA Textile Futures course at London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design drives students to question the future of the material world. At this year’s graduate exhibition students presented intelligent and timely responses – exploring pertinent themes such as sustainable manufacturing, safeguarding the planet’s natural resources and surviving in the fast-paced digital age.

 Ingrid Hulskamp

Ingrid Hulskamp

Tech-terial Revolution

Several designers are looking beyond the confines of existing technologies and proposing design scenarios that engage with future societal challenges.

Shamees Aden’s conceptual project Protocells: A New Living Material Technology explores the emergence of biotechnology and its possible applications in human life. She applies the principles of synthetic biology – the science of modelling natural processes at the molecular scale – to athletic footwear.

 Shamees Aden

Shamees Aden

Inspired by the research of Martin Hanczyc – professor at the Center for Fundamental Living Technology (FLinT) in Denmark and a leading figure in the field of synthetic biology – Aden theorises a biologically enhanced athletic shoe that creates a protective second skin around the user’s foot.

The advanced footwear is made using chemically engineered cells that respond to the wearer’s foot as it hits the ground. Hanczyc says: “The surface-adapting trainer synchronises to the individual foot because this living technology is responsive and reconfigurable, adapting in real time to the current activity of the runner by adding extra support in high- impact areas.”

Aden’s work demystifies this seemingly untouchable technology by exploring its future impact on the world outside the lab.

 Alexia Mathieu

Alexia Mathieu

My 24 Hour Lover by Alexia Mathieu explores the increasingly intimate relationship between humans and their digital devices. She has used textiles as a tool to communicate the evolution of the mobile phone and the future impact it could have on human behaviour.

Mathieu has predicted the development of this love affair through a series of material probes and plotted them on a timeline – from now (2012) to the year 2045. Mathieu predicts that our digital dependence will be so profound that our mobile devices will become almost parasitical – offering a suffocating salvation that’s impossible to live without.

She says: “We are developing an intimate and highly emotional relationship with an object, and this provokes an unnerving reality – we are mixing emotions and technology as we move towards singularity.”

We are developing an intimate and highly emotional relationship with an object, and this provokes an unnerving reality – we are mixing emotions and technology as we move towards singularity
— Alexia Mathieu

Dahea Sun’s project Rain Palette beautifully visualises the quality of the invisible atmosphere. Using pH sensitive dyes, Sun has designed a collection of garments that react and change colour according to the acidity of the rainwater, which in turn indicates the quality of the ambient atmosphere. If the garment turns blue the atmosphere is neutral (pH 7) and healthy, but if it turns pink, it indicates a lower pH value and a more toxic environment.

Sun has also created an app to accompany the collection, which allows users to record and upload their rain pH readings online – creating a global database of real-time environmental data.

 Alexia Mathieu; Dahea Sun

Alexia Mathieu; Dahea Sun

Contemplative Rhythms

Time is a precious commodity in today’s fast-paced digital landscape. And designers are responding to the pressure of making every second count by generating poetic solutions that encourage new ambient rhythms.

The Transformative Chronotype by Julie Yonehara alters the body’s natural cadence with coloured light. This internal metronome is also known as the circadian rhythm – a 24-hour internal body clock that regulates the physical and behavioural processes of all living systems through night and day.

The human dependence on artificial light interrupts this natural cycle. Yonehara believes that because of this, our relationship with light and dark is more akin to that of stimulants and sedatives – a controlled substance that we manipulate to accommodate the needs of our busy lifestyles.

Yonehara has fabricated a set of exquisitely crafted coloured visors that can fit into the user’s daily routine to induce states of stimulation and sedation. Red is worn in the morning to prepare for the day ahead and blue is used at night to wind down and prepare for bed.

 Julie Yonehara

Julie Yonehara

Ingrid Hulskamp is also challenging life’s fast pace with Daily Poetry – a collection of luxurious spinning tops that encourage adults to slow down and enjoy a thoughtful moment in time. The toys – made from a combination of hand- blown glass, wood, textiles and brass – are filled with water and coloured pigments, which have a mesmeric effect that incites curiosity and contemplation when spun.

The Morning Collection by Lesley Robertson is a harmonious print collection that visualises our daily morning rituals – from turning on the radio to brushing our pearly whites. She has experimented with hand-dye and print techniques, digital print and laser etching on a variety of materials, including leather, plastic and towelling – to create a commercially viable textile collection that gives special attention to a typically mundane routine.

 Ingrid Hulskamp

Ingrid Hulskamp

Could we allow ourselves to become detached from our loved ones so that their bodies could be seen as a resource? And would our relationship to a resource change if we knew its components were recently human?
— Kerry Greville

Breeding Resilience

The strain on the world’s natural resources and the harmful impact of manufacturing is inciting designers to re-purpose waste matter and experiment with ecological materials for a more resilient future.

As mankind becomes increasingly conscious of the value of resources, should we consider the material potential of our own bodies? Kerry Greville’s research probes the potential of extracting viable resources from the human body after death to create woven textile products. Recycling The Dead explores the processes needed to extract chemical components, such as beryllium – a brittle metal found commonly in coal – from cremated remains.

 Young Ju Do

Young Ju Do

Greville asks: “Could we allow ourselves to become detached from our loved ones so that their bodies could be seen as a resource? And would our relationship to a resource change if we knew its components were recently human?”

Compostable Accessories by Young Ju Do considers biodegradability as a core design feature for the future. The bold accessories are made from bio-plastic, which is an ecological material made from potato starch that can decompose into the natural environment once it’s no longer needed. The material is also biologically nutritious – providing food for bacteria and microbiological life in the soil.

Ju Do dispels the typical eco-aesthetic and showcases the visual potential of sustainable materials for the fashion market.

Ana Quaresma presented Uplastic – a closed-loop plastic recycling system that provides sustainable raw materials to fabricate garments. Quaresma has created a textile collection made from plastic and recycled polyester. The clothing can be shredded, melted or bonded to create new clothing. With every piece of plastic ever made still with us, we need to find commercially viable systems that give oil-based materials a second product life.

 Ana Quaresma

Ana Quaresma

Summary

Graduate designers are looking beyond the confines of existing technologies and proposing design scenarios that engage with future societal challenges.

Designers are generating poetic solutions that encourage new ambient rhythms and encourage us to slow down and enjoy a thoughtful moment in time. Ingrid Hulskamp’s spinning tops are filled with water and coloured pigments, which have a mesmeric effect that incites curiosity and contemplation when spun.

The strain on the world’s natural resources and the harmful impact of manufacturing is inciting designers to re-purpose waste matter and experiment with ecological materials for a more resilient future.

Don’t underestimate the scope of applying textile thinking to other industries. Innovating with a textile sensibility can create unexpected outcomes. Shamees Aden is taking the barefoot running craze to the extreme with her responsive athletic shoe that adapts to the user in real time.

Graduate designers – unaffected by the parameters and restrictions of industry – are producing intelligent projects that engage with current societal challenges. Visit the graduate shows to get the scoop on the next generation of design talent.