Friday, 12 July 2013

Haute Couture Reincarnated


Haute Couture is many a time, highly misunderstood. With a select few truly understanding the reason and meaning behind the exclusive affair, its declared death many years ago may be argued to have provoked little mourning on the 'outside world'. Mairi MacKenzie, in Isms: Understanding Fashion, believes that, due to our post-modern culture, “the random cannibalisation of past fashions has spawned a culture in which creativity is exhausted and the new no longer exists”. However, the time for discovery and a thirst for knowledge is upon us more persistently than ever. As we strive to fix our environmental concerns, erudition offers the beginnings of fantastical answers we so desperately desire. What has become the 'couture of our century', and even perhaps our lifetime, is something far more intricate, captivating and lies on the doorstep of Science. 

Many corporations are unfairly held, almost entirely, accountable for the environmental predicament we face, but rarely does the general public look towards the Textiles and Product industry. The problem not only lies with the issue of waste we produce, but also with the burning of fossil fuels used to produce a number of our extensively used synthetic materials such as Nylon. What is fascinating, however, is the ways in which these concerns are being fought against; and science is making rapid progressions in the world of waste reduction and fibre engineering. Perhaps in our modern society, and climate, our futuristic fibrous discoveries should become predominant parts of inspiration for the commercial industry.

Alongside fibre developments, we should be considering the textures and constructions of nature than can inspire our experimentations. These can be inspired by elements such as skin texture, bone structure and formations of bacteria. Demonstrating this is the company Speedo with their innovative line of products within the Fastskin FSII Series.

The concept of the Fastskin FSII Series is fascinating in its execution, displaying scale inspired elements in the fabric they use. The body of the Fastskin suit comes in a variety of textures, some with scale shaped grooves and others with a rough textured base on the fabric. What both of these designs have done is taken inspiration from the scaly and rough texture of Sharkskin and translated that into a fabric that dissects the water when swimming. Having conferred with hydrodynamic experts, optical engineers and more, the Speedo company have shown the way in which the Fastskin cap, goggles and suit become “one holistic racing system” to, using aerodynamics, dramatically improve the contours of the entire body by reducing drag resistance by 16.6%, thus creating a sensation described by Michael Phelps as being “at one with the water”. Therefore revolutionising a person's “hydrodynamic efficiency”.

As modern elite fabrics are invented, fibrous discoveries are being made. One of biotechnologies’ most recent discoveries is that of the Hagfish’s slime. A Hagfish has approximately 100 glands that run along its body and exude a milky substance. When this substance mixes with salt water it expands, creating a vast amount of clear slime that consists of resilient and elastic fibres, whilst remaining very thin. When stretched out in water and later dried out, the fibres become very silky and lustrous. At Present it is believed that the shedding of this slime by the Hagfish unharms the creature, therefore when being scrutinised it can be considered to be moral. The fact that this fish sheds so much substance, as a single Hagfish contains hundreds of kilometres of slime ‘thread’, it could be possible to use this newly found material as a sustainable replacement for fibres such as Nylon and silk. Scientists believe that there is a variety of uses for this material, including “tights, breathable athletic wear, or even bullet proof vests” say BBC News. 

We now have the opportunity to utilise both natural and renewable resources. These types of biotechnological developments are very futuristic and ambitious at present, and hold a variety of possibilities in the expanse of Fashion and Couture. Although well into the process of finalisation and commercialisation their impacts on society become unknown and therefore uncontrollable. The question is therefore simply, what are these materials good for and how will they effect us?
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