BOSTON, United States — “Learning by doing” is the approach that Fashion Director Claire Jarvis and Science Director and Immunologist Patricia Torregrosa have undertaken in designing a collaborative process for scientists and fashion designers. The pair is behind a four-step process currently being navigated by the scientist/designer teams involved in Descience; Research on the Runway. On this occasion, they tell us how their own collaboration has helped define those four building blocks of the Descience project: Inspiration, Connection, Collaboration and Runway.
“I think the most important consideration was flexibility,” muses Jarvis. “Our process needed to be prepared for a huge amount of diversity; different disciplines within each field as well as students and professionals. It is about becoming inspired by science and using fashion design to inspire others. There are many diverse interpretations of this and we wanted them all to be represented, from wearables to the conceptual to the very literal.”
Torregrosa remembers that they started at the runway and worked their way back; “We thought about the final runway show and posed the following questions for our judges: “
- How well does the design reflect its science?
- How well is it executed?
- How much impact does it have on the runway?
- Does it create a conversation for the research, or science in general?
- Is the design innovative?
- Does it represent a true collaboration?
The only rule? No naked models! Each team is responsible for creating a complete and original runway look.”
The first step of Descience is inspiration. Scientists provide images and briefs about their research and designers shop for their muse.
In their own collaboration, the pair takes inspiration from Torregrosa’s research, which focuses on the imperfectly understood exosomes that have great potential as a therapeutic tool against many diseases. As Dr. Torregrosa explains:
Exosomes are small bubbles released by all cells of the body that transport information from one cell to another over long distances.
In collaborating with a fashion designer, Torregrosa and participating scientists are at pains to explain their research to a layman. She recalls: “explaining my work to Claire forced me to think outside of the box.” She helped to get the point across by encouraging Jarvis to visualise the inner body as a communication network made up of organs that connect via the blood and lymphatic system, forming highways and byways throughout the body.
Exosomes travel through these pathways and facilitate the communication between the different organs to maintain control of the network.
Torregrosa has always been passionate about communicating science through creative means, exploring the art of crochet as a means to visualise and explain her work. In designing the collaboration process, she was careful to include the involvement of the scientists throughout the process: “We want as much collaboration as possible.” Teams must communicate visually though a “sketch” that is approved by both members of the team. Torregrosa believes that the sketches are an important milestone in the process, “giving the scientists the ability to give feed-back on the design and make changes according to their scientific point of view before the design is executed.”
For her part, Jarvis had no trouble getting inspired by her partner’s research:
I love the idea of an interconnected world inside the body and how exosomes may be used in the future as targeted medicines, delivering messages to specific parts of the body.
Inspired by Torregrosa’s crochet creations, the team agreed to take a literal, whimsical approach, recreating the body’s anatomy in a myriad of colours. To this, they added the storied exosomes, colour coded to match their destined organ, messengers to be carried by the vascular system.
Runway; The Look
The look that the team has created is a true collaboration. Torregrosa fashioned a crochet, lung collar to accompany Jarvis’ nuno felt creation. Three yards of white silk chiffon came together with a collage of silk organs and blood vessel threads, connected by a thin layer of merino wool roving. Friction and heat were applied to the dress, causing it to shrink by half and giving it an organic texture.
The collaborative spirit of Torregrosa and Jervis in discovering synergies between two field of studies have paved the way to the conceptualisation of what science looks through the prism of fashion and the realisation of unique pieces or art – a concept now replicated by 60 talented teams. Stay tuned for the first images of their final designs!