Thu, February 12, 2009
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A look at the disposable dress

2009-02-12 08:17:53 GMT2009-02-12 16:17:53 (Beijing Time)  Reuters

A groundbreaking collaboration between a British fashion designer and scientists from two leading UK universities aims to make 'eco-green' the new black.

The 'Wonderland' project has been portrayed in media reports as the ultimate in disposable fashion, but as Technology Correspondent Matt Cowan explains it's actually part of a sophisticated campaign to create awareness about sustainability.

STORY:

The fashion world thrives on perpetual motion. Seasons change - but you can always count on designers to always be one step ahead. That said, designer and London College of Fashion professor Helen Storey is more concerned about climate change than being at the cutting edge of the latest fad.

SOUNDBITE: Helen Storey, Professor, London College of Fashion saying (English):

"It goes ahead the grain of things but for me, beauty isn't enough anymore. I seem to be very attracted to the notion of things that are beautiful having purpose."

Which is how we get to Wonderland - Storey's groundbreaking collaboration with scientists from two leading universities with the stated aim of creating the ultimate in disposable fashion, a disolvable dress. It all started with a phone call to Tony Ryan of the University of Sheffield.

SOUNDBITE: Tony Ryan, University of Sheffield Professor, Faculty of Science saying (English):

"I'm a classically trained scientist. I'm a chemistry professor. I work in boundaries."

What Storey originally proposed went well beyond those boundaries - she asked whether a theory called Quantum Entanglement might be applied to ordinary household cleaning materials. If atoms could relate across the universe, then why couldn't a bottle of washing up liquid know when it was empty and therefore safe to disintegrate.

SOUNDBITE: Tony Ryan, University of Sheffield Professor, Faculty of Science saying (English):

"The idea of making a bottle that disappears - that knows when it's empty and knows to disappear is fantastical."

Soon the two agreed to change the focus of the research. A dissolvable dress made of biodegradable plastics, they thought, would certainly get people talking.

SOUNDBITE: Helen Storey, Professor, London College of Fashion saying (English):

"We picked on something that grabs attention in order that we could talk about a bigger debate, so we've used and abused fashion if you like for a message that is more important."

SOUNDBITE: Tony Ryan, University of Sheffield Professor, Faculty of Science saying (English):

"And people ask the question - always ask the question 'why are you destroying this beautiful thing? Okay. Then the opportunity is there to reflect that question back. Because they've had the aesthetic experience, immediately brings that context of what we're doing to the world into sharp focus."

So while disposable frocks are unlikely to be hitting high street shops anytime soon, disintegrating fashions have already proved to be a powerful talking point.

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