Fashion and design are often viewed as very artistic fields that require creativity.
However, what many people overlook is the fact that an artistic field can also be quite scientific. This doesn’t take away from its creativity at all - in fact, science and technology often open up new possibilities for creation!
Here at Panublix, we see the intersection of fashion, design, science, and technology every day.
Our farmers benefit from agricultural science. Our weavers benefit from material science and dye chemistry. And when it comes to the Panublix core team, we benefit from data and computer science every single day.
Today, we’ll be diving into some of the fields that are vital to fashion and design - as well as how you can help build a more sustainable future!
When you think of fashion and design, you may think the work starts in a studio or office - but it actually starts at farms!
Farms grow the crops that are processed and used for fashion and design. And when it comes to cultivating crops in a sustainable manner, there’s no better place to look than regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative agriculture is an approach to agriculture that rehabilitates the ecosystem, conserves its resources, and increases its biodiversity.
It draws from several other practices and philosophies, including permaculture, agroecology, composting, polyculture, conservation farming, cover crops, crop rotation, and planted borders.
All of these practices benefit the fashion and design industries by providing a sustainable source of high-quality raw materials - which are essential to create any sustainable, high-quality products.
However, regenerative agriculture is underdeveloped in the Philippines. To make it more widespread and efficient, it will need further research and innovation.
Yarns and Textiles
The next step in the supply chain consists of the yarns and textiles, a.k.a. the materials that are used in fashion and design.
The manufacturing of these products may seem straightforward, but there is actually a special science dedicated to it.
Material science is an interdisciplinary field that designs and discovers new materials through research and engineering.
Material science consists of three main steps:
- Understand a material's structure, properties, and performance.
- Learn how processing and usage affect the material.
- Utilize research to engineer an improved or completely new material.
Through this process, material scientists can make yarns and textiles that are increasingly strong, stretchy, durable, waterproof, absorbent, soft, or thin.
Because of this, material science can play a large part in making sustainable yarns and textiles the standard. If scientists can find ways to improve these materials and make them more commercial (without making them less sustainable), the fashion and design industries will be more likely to use them.
Although you could use yarns and textiles as they are, most are dyed in different colors so that they can be used for a variety of purposes.
To achieve this, chemists develop dyes that deliver a consistent, even color which won’t fade easily even when exposed to sunlight and soap. There are currently two main categories for dyes: synthetic and natural.
Synthetic dyes are dyes that are developed from petrochemicals. These are the current standard for commercial dyeing, despite being harmful to the environment.
Natural dyes are dyes that come from plants and minerals. They were used for centuries before synthetic dyes were developed, and they’re sustainable alternatives to synthetics.
Unfortunately, today’s natural dyes aren’t always as consistent and convenient as synthetic dyes. It will take much more research and development to convince the fashion and design industries to phase synthetic dyes completely.
Manufacturing consumes a large amount of energy and resources, which impacts the environment through pollution and heavy resource consumption. The products created also tend to have short life cycles, which can lead to higher overall prices.
Green manufacturing addresses this by studying business and manufacturing practices, developing sustainable strategies, and implementing environmental standards for regulation.
This results in businesses:
- Switching to renewable resources
- Reducing their pollution and waste
- Developing efficient technologies
- Creating durable and recyclable products
- Lowering the cost of their products
However, green manufacturing is a relatively new field, and scientists and engineers will be needed to develop it further for fashion and design - especially when it comes to improving specialized technologies like looms.
After a product is created, it must then be held up to the industry standards, including environmental standards.
Environmental standards are regulations and laws that are designed to protect the environment and its natural resources. Some examples for environmental standards in the fashion and design industries include the Better Cotton Initiative, Oeko-Tex, and GOTS.
These standards are frequently updated as we gain more knowledge on the environmental impact of products - which is gained through thorough scientific research.
Thus, environmental scientists and their research help battle greenwashing, which often falls apart in the face of scientific environmental standards.
Even when you cross over into the business side of the fashion and design industries, science is still incredibly useful.
Data science allows businesses to assess the data generated by their purchases and sales. This data can then be used to improve the business, making it more likely to succeed.
And when it comes to fashion and design businesses, data science can be used for supply chain analytics, which can shed light on just how sustainable a supply chain actually is - in environmental, economical, and financial terms.
Another way science can be used to improve business is through digital development.
Computer science has led to the development of various programs, applications, and tools that help businesses transition to the digital economy.
This has played an integral role in helping sustainable businesses succeed, especially microbusinesses that wouldn’t normally receive global support, like farms and artisan collectives.
As technology advances, further research and innovation will be required to help sustainable fashion and design companies thrive.
How We Can Make Fashion and Design Sustainable
No matter what field you’re in, science and technology are always necessary for progress. And to move forward, Panublix needs scientists like you!
As a platform that connects designers with tropical yarns and textiles, Panublix strongly believes in supporting research and development that can contribute to a more sustainable and regenerative future in these fields.
That is why we would like to engage with student researchers and research advisors, especially those based in Western Visayas! Together, we can change the course of fashion and design for the better.