Space textiles, space patterns
The ESMOD Berlin International University of Art for Fashion is one of five European design schools participating in Couture in Orbit, assigned the theme of “Earth observation and climate change”. Philippe Ara, design teacher for concept and collection development, and Stephanie Biedermann, lecturer for pattern making and realisation, give an overview of the school’s role in the event.
ESMOD is a highly international school, with two thirds of the students from outside of Germany. Around 20 students worked on the Couture in Orbit project in parallel to their normal semester work, with mainly the slightly more experienced students from Germany and internationally taking part.
ESA representatives came to Berlin to introduce us to the Earth observation and climate change theme to begin the project. From there, the students applied their creativity to the concept in some mind-bending ways.
Our assigned astronaut, Alexander Gerst, could not visit the school, unfortunately, but many students based their research and concepts on him and the challenges he encounters as an astronaut. We watched videos about his responsibilities and learnt of the ‘overview effect’ – being in space and looking down on Earth. This led to very personal and interesting concepts that translate into the garments.
One student started thinking about photosynthesis seen from space and another was inspired by the lack of visible country borders from above to design a garment that eschewed visible borders.
The project felt highly pioneering and innovative. It was a new experience for us to face the challenge of the conceptual idea while integrating the technology into the garments. ESMOD is used to working with business partners at workshops but this was an all-new experience.
Our technical sponsors are Xsens with their Biomech suit and Sympatex with their waterproof materials. In addition, ESA supplied samples of materials that are used in space, such as heat-reflecting multilayer insulation and solar sails.
The materials were very inspirational. It is fascinating to see and work with high-level textiles that are being developed for space – fashion schools usually do not get access to these. Stephanie’s competence in pattern-making really produced the great results.
Fashion is more of a business and an art while space is more technical and a complete experience. Combining the two was mind-bending and challenging but working with the materials and partners and implementing the materials really opened our minds and broadened horizons. It was nice to see the highly creative students work on this new challenge with a passion.
Six designs will be shown at the fashion show at London’s Science Museum on 25 May. ESMOD Berlin has a strong international aspect and the different backgrounds and ideas fed into a project by all the students from all over the world are unique – much like the International Space Station.