New Designer Job Description: Scientist

(October 2012 The Doneger Group Website)
By David Wolfe

Technology and innovation have been driving most businesses fast forward at a breakneck speed. The fashion industry has embraced those very drives to speed up many traditional manufacturing, distribution and storekeeping tasks, but now the role of fashion designer is also undergoing a change, a revolutionary rethink. Some of the most exciting new creators are more than designers, they are scientists, too.

The most interesting scientific breakthroughs are occurring in textile innovation. More than merely man-made synthetics, the new materials are almost sci-fi.

Suzanne Lee is one of the leading proponents of this new scientific fashion realm. Director of the Bio Couture Research Project, she is working on engineering optimized organics for growing consumer products. In other words, growing materials from sugar, tea. Fibers grown from bacteria will undoubted by a challenge to marketeers who will be challenged to explain this miracle to the average consumer.

Anke Domaske has discovered a more efficient and ecologically sound method of turning casein, the porous white protein found in milk, into a silk-like fibre. The milk used is “secondary” and not fit for human consumption. The resulting fabric, marketed as “Qmilk,” manages moisture, is bacteria resistant and reduces skin irritation. Domaske offers it in her ready-to-wear line, “Mademoiselle Chi Chi.”

Other designer/scientists are making astonishing advances in textile technology, pointing the way to a brave new world of fashion in which newness is far more than raising or lowering a hemline, inserting shoulder pads (or not) and adding some sequins. And as every retailer knows, “newness sells!”