Ephemeral Fashion Lab¶
An innovative concept combining a fashion brand and a multidisciplinary experimentation lab. The Ephemeral Fashion Lab (EFL) designs and manufactures mono-material fashion products, with an open-source approach, through up-cycling biomaterial into compostable fashion.
For the purpose of the Fabricademy final project, I focused on creating a bag collection that embraces the concepts of Ephemeral Fashion Lab, as a starting point for other future product developments.
Traditionally, fashion products are developed in multiple stages, where each stage is processed by different manufacturers. The process (from raw fibres to fabric, from cutting, sewing, all the way to the final product stage) is complex and counts numerous social, environmental and economical issues, e.g.terrible working conditions, animal exploitation, intensive land water use and carbon footprint.
Our times demand radical changes towards a more sustainable and nature synced existence, in every industry there is the urge for innovation and every step of the chain needs to be revisited.
The Ephemeral Fashion Lab reimagines the end-to-end process of the fashion industry, by the means of digitally fabrication, collaborative design and manufacturing through open-source innovative processes.
Each stage of the traditional design and production process is addressed through EFL's strategy, proposing a sustainable alternative to diminish the possible negative impact.
BIOBASED AND BIO COMPOSTABLE MATERIALS >> Resources, such as food waste and other bio by-products are transformed into beautiful crafted bio-compostable materials, as well as natural dyes to color them. These materials have similar properties to textiles, leather and other fossil fuel based polymers, but offer the unique opportunity to be fully biodegradable or bio-compostable materials, without negative impact on the environment. Accepting that we live in a modern era where fashion trends come and go, Ephemeral Fashion Lab envisions fashion design with nature’s biological cycle at the heart.
NO SEWING / DIGITAL FABRICATION >> The sewing stage of each product is eliminated, through the use of modular interlocking tessellation techniques for the pattern design. The mono-material is cut through a classic digital fabrication laser technique and ready for assembly without stitches.
CIRCULAR >> The products are meant to be crafted in mono-materials only. Using a bag as an example, crafted in mono-material means that instead of having a main fabric in one composition, lining and padding in another, metal and plastic trimmings; the bag is fully made of one material composition only, which makes both recycling and composting much easier.
At the end of a life cycle, each product material can have different circular possibilities. Gelatine based ones, can be renewed and crafted into its original form, making a new fabric sheet and product. Other materials should have its destination to the composting bin or even directly buried in the garden as plant food.
DIY, CUSTOMIZABLE & ON DEMAND >> One of the goals of EFL is to bring the user as an active player in the process, this can be done with different levels of interaction and involvement. Because the full process in open-source, one can decide to make a product from scratch, crafting the material, downloading the digital file, laser cutting the pattern and assembling the final garment/accessory; or it can be that someone would like to have the final product, in that case they would purchase a sheet of the material already cutted and ready to be assembled with the help of a manual.
Each product is made for a final user, this allows radical customization, exclusivity and more importantly no overstock and less waste generation.
LOCAL >> The product development process can be fully replicated locally with available resources. The lack of transparency in certain steps of the fashion industry is home for most of its social responsibility issues, workers at cotton fields or at subcontracted sweatshops in some underdevelopment country are away from the final consumer's sight. By bringing the crafting, manufacturing as well as the end of lifecycle close to the final user, EFL expects also to raise awareness on the precious resources it takes to make a product.
an innovative concept combining a fashion brand and a multidisciplinary experimentation lab
- Fashion Brand approach > Target group : Customer
Fashion collection will be launched on an online platform and offline Lab with workspace and showroom. Since products are developed from new, innovative materials, contact with the final products is key for consumer adoption. This will be established by Launch and Test events.
Customers will have different options when purchasing a product, they can buy the already laser cutted fabric and assemble the product themselves or buy the final ready-to-wear version as well. Different colors and materials customization will be available for the user's choice, making every product unique and exclusive.
- Multidisciplinary Experimentation Lab approach > Target group : Makers
Since one of the main pillars of EFL is the open-source approach, all information will be available, and those who wish to go through the entire process by themselves will be able to do so, becoming another category of user, the Makers.
They will craft the material themselves based on the local supply of biowaste or other natural ingredients. With access to the digital design file of the product and a local maker space to laser cut the material, the products will be ready to assemble and be worn.
Makers will work in a collaboration format, absorbing but also feeding knowledge on the platform, having the option to suggest material improvements, as well as product design ideas with new manufacturing techniques, such as 3D printing. However EFL wishes to intermediate and curate all content being submitted to guarantee the excellent quality of the information provided and also consistent branding.
Additionally, people from different backgrounds and disciplines e.g. biologists, chemists, creative designers, developers, business leaders will be involved in workshops exploring the digital fabrication and assembling process, to raise awareness and gather feedback on this new approach of fashion development.
The initial product chosen to be explored under the EFL approach is a belt bag, also known as fanny pack or bum bag.
One of the reasons for this choice is that the fanny pack truly embodies the concept of ephemerality in fashion. Although bags attached to a belt date from thousands of years ago, it was only in the past decades that fanny packs were labeled as a tacky and embarrassing accessory. However during the past years it all changed and they have been one more time transformed into a desirable fashion trend.
The undeniable fact is that these mini bags are very practical and an essential friend in modern times, when carrying only a smartphone means having the world at your reach.
Eco-sexy A main guideline when designing this bag was to create a modern and minimalistic look for the final product, that contradicts the common sense of sustainable products being unfashionable or aesthetically dubious. Sexy or nothing.
The final bag is presented in two versions BAG_001 and BAG_002. Material availability, fabric properties and extra customization were the main decision making factors. Designing a product for homemade biomaterials is very challenging, because the material properties vary from recipe to recipe and sometimes even on the same recipe, because of the own nature of working with natural ingredients.
Therefore the design pattern process adapted as the material research evolved and these two fronts of research fedded each other in order to reach a final optimal combination. Below the main characteristics of each BAG and also recommendations of material.
- Three internal pockets and one extra in the back
- Allows customization and color combination by exchanging part A, part B or belt
- Recommended thickness between 0,6 - 1mm
- Ideal sheet size to laser cut 100 x 50 cm (all parts in the same sheet)
BAG_001 made out of Avocado BioJelly (Part A) and Logwood BioJelly (Part B), Beatriz Sandini, 2020 BAG_001 made out of Logwood BioJelly (Part A) and Mate BioJelly (Part B), Beatriz Sandini, 2020
DXF Files ready to laser cut¶
This bag is a simpler variation of the first one. When casting biomaterial is not always easy to get big sheets and so this version is intended to smaller material sheets, is also recommended that these sheets are a bit thicker than the previous style due to the reduced amount of layers.
- Two internal pockets
- Allows customization and color combination by exchanging main part and belt
- Recommended thickness between 1 - 1,5mm
- Ideal sheet size to laser cut 62 x 50 cm (all parts in the same sheet)
DXF Files ready to laser cut¶
BAG_002 made out of Charcoal BioLeather, Beatriz Sandini, 2020
The full process documentation and design evolution can be found under project process menu.
The materials selection was guided mainly by the pillars of sustainability and circularity. The following criteria are the development process main principles of EFL materials:
- All natural and from renewable sources ingredients
- Non-toxic, non-pollutant and safe for humans substances
- Ideally the source of material should come from waste or by-product. In the cases that new ingredients are used, high availability and low social-environmental impact of that ingredient should be take into consideration
- Final material must be either recyclable or compostable - any waste from manufacture, as well as the end of life product, should be able to be reincorporated either back into the crafting material process or transformed into rich ingredients to soil composting
- Vegan materials will always be preferred, although currently some ingredients still have animal source (gelatine and beeswax)
Having the bag design in mind, the final material/fabric should have similar characteristics as leather or other fossil fuel based material to succeed.
- Main attributes and properties on material research
- Tension resistant
- Water resistant
- Heat resistant
- Suitable for laser cutting
Recipes & Results Sheet¶
For each type of material various tests were made and a final version of the recipe was choose, the detailed information is under the Recipes menu
The evolution of each recipe, together with its main characteristics and attributes are compiled on the Results Sheet. This document is meant to be a living open-source organism that grows over time with the community collaboration.
The research finally focused on 4 main ingredients: Gelatine, Fruit, Tapioca and Algae. The following chart compares the properties of these materials. The scores are given on a qualitative perspective and take as a reference the attributes of traditional fabric being used on bags production (leather or synthetic fabrics). Detailed list of attributes is also provided on the full recipe page for each material.
Jelly fabric is the name commonly used by fashion brands to describe bags and shoes that are made of a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material. EFL brings the new BioJelly as a natural, compostable and DIY alternative for bags, shoes and other accessories in fashion.
The BioJelly fabric can be colored with many different natural dyes and additives to its base recipe.
This material was inspired by the Restology Project that developed a series of biomaterials containing activated charcoal as a possible solution for air pollution in the city of Monterrey, Mexico.
“Activated charcoal is one material that seems especially applicable to Fab Lab makers, because of its ecologically sound and purifying properties. It is essentially a form of incredibly microporous carbon, processed from natural carbon-rich materials by applying various gases or chemicals to ‘burn’ in tiny holes and thus exponentially increasing its surface area. The result ? A material that can efficiently filter out all manner of impurities and toxins. A super-sponge, if you will. Bioplastics present themselves as an excellent and similarly sustainable substrate for activated charcoal with a wide range of uses” Clara Davis on Restology
Using one of the recipes as a starting point, some adjustments were made and the final material had a very different appearance than the other gelatine bioplastics. Is completely matte and has a less “silicone” like texture, so it becomes closer to leather fabric then to plastic. This material also follows the same air filtering properties as the Restology project, so is a bag that cleans the air surrounding it.
Famous as an eating snack, fruit leather can also become an alternative for conventional animal or synthetic leather in fashion. The dehydration process of fruit puree, transforms it into a soft, flexible and yet resistant material.
Even though these are 100% vegetal ingredients based recipes and also compostable in your garden, they are not meant to serve as food. The idea is to give a useful destination for biowaste, so fruits that are overripe and would go to garbage instead.
Mango and Banana were the main experimentations in the project, however many other fruits can be explored and is important to understand what’s available locally to make recipe choices.
Irish Moss & Carrageen Seaweed¶
Tapioca (Cassava Startch)¶
Many of the bioplastic recipes that I found during research were based on starch, usually potato or corn starch. Coming from Brazil I’m very familiar with the amazing properties that Tapioca has as a thickening agent for food. Then I also found some recipes that would use Tapioca starch as a polymer, started with some base ones and went on changing the recipe and method to come up with my own preferred one.
Project Process & Timeline¶
During the four months project, I focused on two main fronts of research, the first one exploring new materials to be used on bags and the second related to the pattern design, how to make it fully digital designed and seamless assembled.
The project timeline served as a macro schedule of research focus and deliverables for each week.
The final design and materials achieved were a result of extensive research and experimentation, with trials and errors. The full documentation on the process can be found on the Project Process menu.
The following topics are the main opportunities for further development of Ephemeral Fashion Lab project research:
- Improvement of existing material recipes and techniques - Some materials are still in very early stages of experimentation, so more tests varying the ingredients as well as exploring different methods will bring a bigger and better range of materials
- Collaboration with chemists and biologists - Understand the role of each ingredient and process when crafting these materials is crucial for better results, therefore EFL will search for qualified multi-disciplinary partnership that are willing to take the material research to another level It’s crucial to further explore the biodegradability topic to better understand each product lifespan, as well as the timing and circumstances that the materials will decompose after its use
- Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) - Essential in any sustainable project, the goal of LCA “is to compare the full range of environmental effects assignable to products and services by quantifying all inputs and outputs of material flows and assessing how these material flows affect the environment” wiki
- Business Model - Detailed business plan and model with implementation, dissemination and monetizing strategies.