We are living in an urgent time for questioning and redefining the designers’ position in the fashion system. As a young, emerging designer, where do you see your professional future? What do you think will be your biggest challenge?
I am convinced that the current industry based on exploitation cannot survive in the future. Neoliberalism only increases the wealth of the ultra-rich while the rest of society becomes poorer and poorer. This has long since resulted not only in a social but also in an ecological crisis. The consequences of the climate catastrophe have become clearly noticeable, especially in recent years and, little by little, we are realising: we need systemic change. Therefore, as a designer, I see my greatest challenge in creating and promoting alternatives to the capitalist system. The best compostable eco-neutral biomaterial changes nothing if we don’t stop overproducing. As a designer, I have the chance not only to design a system but also to spark discussions around issues, to make people question things. This is, in my eyes, one way in which design can trigger political interventions.
Your latest work, Morphogenesis, is set in an alternative reality where biohackers and designers collaborate and use bio-fashion as a political design. Do you plan to evolve your research/project and translate it into the real world?
Yes, that is my plan, in a modified form, of course. The speculation of an alternative reality through my work “Morphogenesis” serves as a starting point to implement my ideas into the near future. I am currently setting up a studio/biolab in Berlin where I am working on developing my bio leather and new manufacturing processes. “Morphogenesis” creates a framework for a more ethically and environmentally sustainable approach to design using biodesign and digital design tools in fashion. It aims to empower people through the creation of tools and brings together diverse communities. This idea results in an eco-neutral fashion design and manufacturing system that is inexpensive and accessible.
“The best compostable eco-neutral biomaterial changes nothing if we don’t stop overproducing.”
It consists of the combination of three parts that I am currently working on: the local production of a compostable biomaterial from algae, an accessible digital design tool using mathematically designed patterns, and the use of classical as well as new design manufacturing systems such as screen printing as well as robotics and 3D printing. Making my bio material doesn’t require fresh water or a highly equipped lab, it is compostable, edible and can be boiled down and reused. Thus, I am creating a circular system: the design process, material production, and reusing happen in one local lab. Easily accessible digital tools allow more people to participate in the design process, opening up the possibility for diverse collaborations, which is not only environmentally conscious but also inclusive, strengthening social justice. The collaborative work in local labs enables independent, sustainable production processes and creates equity and self-reliance. I am currently working on collaborations to make this project a reality and allow more people to work with my local fashion production system in the future.
How can new technologies and bio-design help us find alternatives to capitalist systems of exploitation and pave the way for new ways of making, working and living together in social communities, lessening the depletion of natural sources?
Biodesign opens up new possibilities to work with nature instead of exploiting it. By closely observing circular biological systems, we can learn from them and translate them into circular fashion productions. This changes not only the design and production but also the way we treat our clothes. For example, if we have air-purifying living organisms on our clothes, it requires a different way of storing those clothes and different cleaning methods (or maybe no cleaning at all anymore?). I also think that being aware that my jacket is made of living organisms changes our relationship and appreciation of our clothes. Ecological problems can also be combated through bio-design. The rapid growth of algae creates ecological death zones in the ocean. Using algae for compostable material production therefore has a positive effect. Of course, bio-design is not limited to fashion but can be applied in many different areas.
In my work, it was important to me to work with a material that many people can replicate without the addition of fresh water or a highly equipped lab. Algae are very adaptable and are therefore found in very many parts of the world. Furthermore, by creating a digital design tool, everyone will be able to design their own clothes. The aim is to create a locally accessible fashion production that allows everyone to make their own clothes.
The answers are not all there yet and it requires patience to work with nature but it is a promising practice for a better future.
And the last question: utopian or dystopian future. What is your bet?
I am very concerned about our future. Even though everyone is talking about climate catastrophe and social injustice, I don’t see any real changes. The dystopia has long since begun, it is up to us to demand that our world changes. I would like people to be motivated to participate in the discourse about the climate catastrophe and to feel empowered to make or demand changes in their own field of work and environment. There are so many different kinds of activism and they are all united by the will to change something and to express this will to the rest of the world by resisting societal rules. Everyone can make a difference and every small step, every discussion counts.
BIO / Bea Brücker focuses on working with bio-design, digital tools and new manufacturing processes in order to create a circular fashion system. After graduating with a biodesigned collection from Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in 2018, she was part of the Youth Fashion Summit in Copenhagen, a two-year sustainability programme launched by the UN Global Compact, the Copenhagen Fashion Summit and the Global Fashion Agenda. This motivated Bea to reflect critically on her own practice and to continue exploring multidisciplinary circular design systems. Her work has been displayed at various exhibitions and shows, including Berlin Fashion Week. While studying at the Royal College of Art in London, Bea interrogated the existing eco-dogma prevalent in the discussion around bio-design in fashion. Her multidisciplinary approach of combining technologies with biological systems and traditional fashion design practices creates innovative, circular fashion that embodies an alternative to exploitative systems often present in the fashion industry.
PHOTOS / Johann Spindler and Timo Knorr
MODELS / E. Durotolu, L. Wang, K. Ford,
VIDEOS / Animation and 3d collaboration: Vincent Goos, Model: Noschka G. Shirazi, CINEMATOGRAPHY / Leon Daniel, Assistant: Ronja Lahr