The last word in disposable fashion

A dress that dissolves in the wash is just one result of a project to create a new generation of eco-friendly fabrics

Dresses that melt in the wash are the latest, and possibly strangest, environmentally friendly innovation to hit the world of fashion.

They are the fruit of the "Wonderland" project, a unique collaboration between a pioneering British designer and scientists at the country's leading universities seeking a solution to the "Primark effect" – the ever-rising quantities of discarded clothing being sent to landfill sites.

Last month, the Environment Select Committee found that the proportion of textile waste at council tips has risen from 7 per cent to 30 per cent in five years.

Helen Storey, a designer and professor at the London College of Fashion, teamed up with Professor Tony Ryan from the University of Sheffield and Interface, a research centre at the University of Ulster, to create the Wonderland project.

The team created plastic dresses – made out of a similar material to washing capsules – that disappear on contact with water, with the aim of drawing attention to the problem of waste plastic. "It is about getting different disciplines together to solve a global problem," Professor Storey said.

A touring exhibition, which began at the London College of Fashion, and in which the dresses are hung from scaffolds and lowered into giant fishbowls, dissolving in dramatic patterns as they are submerged, will be returning to the capital for inclusion in the Brit Insurance Designs of the Year awards at the Design Museum on 13 February.

The plastic is made from biodegradable polyvinyl alcohol. By using varying dye weights, chemists altered the movement of the plastic when it hits water, making interesting patterns as the dresses dissolve.

A film of the project has also been made by the fashion photographer Nick Knight, which shows the model Alice Dellal going from clothed to naked in just nine seconds.

The brainchild of a fashion designer, associated with a famous photographer and fronted by a socialite, the project was guaranteed coverage in glossy magazines, but ran the risk of being dismissed by the scientific community as a publicity stunt. However, "fashion has the power to reach across boundaries", said Hannah Teare, the fashion editor of Tatler magazine. "It can create a buzz and awareness."

And many scientists are pleased the exhibition is drawing attention to valuable research that often goes unacknowledged. "It will have scientific value, in a way that is quite unusual" said Dr Mark Moloney, fellow and tutor in organic chemistry at St Peter's College, Oxford.

The Wonderland team is now working on a project to design "catalytic clothing", which would use the surface area of clothing to harness pollutants that would then be neutralised by washing. "Clothes have a massive surface area, and this surface could be used to purify the air," Professor Storey said.

Collaborations of this kind could signal the beginning of a new era of co-operation between fashion and science. A Centre for Fashion Science recently opened at the London College of Fashion, alongside a new MA course in fashion and the environment.

Professor Storey added: "When I started working across fashion and science 10 years ago, fashion people would say 'if you can't buy it in Harvey Nicks, we're not interested', and scientists said 'it's about dresses, why do we care?'. Now that's not the case."

The Brit Insurance Designs of the Year show runs from 12 February to 14 June at the Design Museum, London

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

    £60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice