Color Splash

By Lynne Webster & David Backhouse, School of Design, University of Leeds UK | December 2, 2011

U.K. design students collaborate with Lenzing to make eco-friendly clothing for men and women.

In 2010, the Lenzing Group, a world leader in the marketing and manufacturing of manmade cellulose
fibers, approached the School of Design UoL U.K. with a challenge impossible to resist – create a range of garments using their distinctive brightly colored fibers to be exhibited at the forthcoming INDEX 11 exhibition at Palexpo, Geneva.

Lenzing’s choice of the University of Leeds could be seen as logical; staff and students of the University have been researching the use of nonwoven fabrics in apparel since 2005, resulting in a number of collections, some of which have been documented here and exhibited globally. Elements of the first collection of garments created using nonwoven fabrics “Fashion Synergy” was disseminated at the EDANA Nonwovens Research Academy held at the University of Leeds in 2007 and at the University of Leeds International Textiles Archive (ULITA) the same year. Yet more distinctive collections and collaborations followed:“FASHION: Function in Action” supported by EDANA and its members and exhibited at INDEX 08 at Palexpo, Geneva. “FASHION: Transparency,” sponsored by Colbond, combines new technology and traditional techniques, sonic bonding, laser cutting and beading to create a mood from soft dressing and feminine ruffles through to tailored-inspired looks. And Finally“FASHION: Décoratif,” created in collaboration with Colbond, Fybagrate and Anglo Recycling used exploratory research into nuno felting, beading, embellishment, print and color techniques.

Challenges and opportunities
The Lenzing Group offered UoL an opportunity to enhance and develop this research in an exciting new way. To date, apparel collections using nonwoven fabrics had, by and large, been created in either neutral or soft colors such as white, creams, soft greys, blues and pinks. The fabrics sent from Lenzing were quite different – chartreuse yellow, mint green, lilac, cyclamen pink and tangerine. They were also challenging in an unexpected way; they were manufactured and delivered in rolls only 50 cm wide. Fabrics used for apparel are generally housed in rolls ranging from 100-150 cmto allow for shaping around the body and to create the fluid lines customary to apparel. This narrow width meant the designers were presented with a range of questions, including:

How could pattern blocks be adapted? Which pattern shapes would best address the restrictions? How could voluminous, gathered and pleated shapes be accommodated?

Fashion has always embraced novel materials and techniques, and new technologies have driven creativity and enabled designers to innovate in previously unimagined ways. The fabrics sent from Lenzing presented fashion staff with an inventive challenge and the design process began using the latest trend and style inspiration from a range of global sources.

The materials and shapes used in this collection, titled“Architectural Color Clash,”constitute an entirely new type of product and aesthetic. The fabrics proved to be suitable for a wide range of apparel products; duffel coats, jeans, balloon dresses, leggings and cigarette pants were designed, cut and constructed. Color is at the heart of this collection of nonwoven garments, whether it comes in colliding or matching blocks, combining bright flashes of jewel colors with shades of grey, color dictates the mood and attitude throughout. Strong, sharp and clean design lines and “on-trend” color is directly linked to consumer aspiration, inspiring and supporting both product development and the creative process.

Blazing new trails by using Lenzing’s“novel materials” and reinventing the basic building blocks of design, this collection tracks the way “materiologists” change the way we define clothing through material choice. Nonwovens offer an embryonic, artistic challenge and in so doing demand the creative engagement of the designer. Directional and cutting-edge elements can often push the boundaries of what is perceived as fashion fabrics. By focusing on sculptural shapes, clashing colors, intelligent pattern drafting and simple manufacturing methods, these garments, which wrap the body in a swathe of cool cocooning, present a touch of modern wearability.

Transformative accessories
Eager to experiment and deliver something new, Eunsuk Hur, research student at UoL was invited to join the design team. Hur’s work, described as interchangeable modular systems of textile pieces, pushes the boundaries of fashion. Her exploration of different materials and inventive approaches using laser cutting lead to the new textiles featured here. Her designs adapt and change depending how they are worn. She designs each textile piece to engage the customer. Expanding their opportunity for personal expression with transposable pieces of fabric, each scarf can be locked into a variety of shapes and lengths. Lenzing’s malleable, multi-colored fibers proved an ideal avenue for her imaginative work.

In conclusion
The choice of textile significantly influences the eventual silhouette and the entire message of a collection. Globally, designers are fascinated with the aesthetics which can be achieved through the use of a variety of innovative techniques and fabrics. Lenzing’s soft to the touch, colorful nonwovens with their unique properties were pleated, laser cut, washed and blended in this exciting experimentation which developed and evolved into a collection of distinctive and beautiful garments. We would like to thank the Lenzing Group for giving us the opportunity to work with their unique nonwoven fibers and for exhibiting the garments at INDEX11.

Garment design and pattern drafting by David Backhouse (program leader, fashion) and Lynne Webster (senior teaching fellow). Garment construction by Catherine Malkin (instructor) and Lynda Howarth (technician). Scarves designed and constructed by Eunsuk Hur (Ph.D research student). Photography by: Mike Anderson (instructor).

Biographical statements
Lynne C Webster. Senior Teaching Fellow
School of Design, University of Leeds. UK
Email: l.c.webster@leeds.ac.uk

Webster’s role involves the design, delivery and assessment of undergraduate modules in Fashion Design and Development, Garment Technology and Training in the Workplace. Webster worked extensively in the Far East and also in the corporate wear sector.

David Backhouse MDes RCA. Subject Leader Fashion
School of Design, University of Leeds. UK
Email: d.backhouse@leeds.ac.uk

Backhouse’s role involves the design, delivery and assessment of undergraduate modules in fashion design and theory. Backhouse worked for Roland Klein for over 15 years designing ranges for clients and stores around the globe. He has been working in higher education for the past 18 years.

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