Penny Thoughts

The Ramblings of a Biology Lover, with a Few Surprises on the Side

Category: Fashion

Sustainability: Fashion or Function?

As I’m currently doing a project on the maintenance of biodiversity in urban areas, words like “sustainability”, “ecosystems”, “biodiversity” are popping up all over the place. These terms are generally all wonderfully defined, fully equipped with a visual aid and chart of the writer’s choice.

After reading my first few reports and papers I started to realise that people are throwing these words around like their going out of fashion. It seems that saying that you’re being “sustainable” is the new cool. People like these words; it makes them sound future-thinking, caring and wordly. Really I think it’s a whole load of crap.

In most cases these words are being thrown out with really very little understanding of what is going on. It seems that the sustainability club is the new jock club of political life. Politicians absolutely love it. As much as I like Boris Johnson it seems that he can hardly go 2 minutes without mentioning being  “sustainable”, and “green”.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is brilliant that politicians and policy makers are being more considerate of the environment; it sets a good example for our future. But really they’re just trying to stick a tiny tiara of “sustainability” on the massive turd that is our past. Maybe they think that if they say sustainability enough times the huge damage we humans have done to our environment will vanish in a poof of smoke.

I came across a google program called Ngram Viewer where you can type in a word and see how much it has been used in literature over time. If you want to have a play follow this link. I typed in these new environmental buzzwords and found something rather funny. There has been no mention of these words anywhere up until about the 1960s and 1980s.

Image

These words are getting people ever so excited; everyone wants a piece of them. They are  like the shiny, new iphones of the word world.. people can’t wait to show off just how sustainable they are being and how much they truly care for these ecosystems they know very little about.

Hopefully there will be some substance behind the politician’s new favourite words. But it still seems to me that the people who are actually making the difference are the conservation charities and organisations. Governments and councils are still realistically more interested in developing their growing economies than helping out the natural world that we have been shitting on for the last few hundred years.

Advertisements

Fabrics of the Future: Hagfish Slime?

Clothes are important to anyone; whether you’re an avid fashionista or more of the practical sort, we all need clothes. However, the materials and fabrics of choice may be straying from the ordinary to the extraordinary in the not so distant future. The source of the  fabric for your new dress or coat could be swimming at the deep, dark depths of our ocean floor.

Research led by Atsuko Negishi at the University of Guelph in Canada has suggested that hagfish slime could be used to create a super stretchy, lycra-like fabric. The team managed to collect this slime from the hagfish and realised that it could be treated and then spun into threads much like silk.

This does seem a bit odd and gruesome, but it really is very logical to put these materials that nature provides to good use.

The majority of the fabrics we rely on today, are oil-based polymers which basically means that the materials are petroleum based. With our ever decreasing supplies of petroleum the demand for alternatives to these products is high.

Hagfish are ancient, bottom-dwelling animals that have been around for over 300 million years. If you’ve done some evolutionary biology in your time, you should definitely remember these weird creatures. When these strange, eel-like creatures are approached or attacked they release this sticky slime as a deterrent. The slime contains mucous and huge amounts of certain protein fibers that belong to a family of protein fibers called intermediate filaments. These filaments are great for making fabrics as they can be deformed and stretched to shapes and sizes very different to their original form.

The researchers aren’t quite ready to produce full on items of clothing, but they intend to pursue this concept further to hopefully create the basis for more environmentally friendly fabrics of the future.

If you want to read the original paper it can be found here.

 

Pre-Coloured Silkworms

These strange balls of fabric are actually the raw starting material for silk; but they are normally never this vibrant. Silk is a hugely popular fabric with over $30 billion worth produced each year in China alone. Silk comes from silkworms which produce the raw material when they form cocoons. This is then removed and boiled to obtain fibroin which is the core ingredient for silk.

From here the process gets quite complex and expensive. The dying process requires huge amounts of water, dye and energy to complete and there is a lot of waste produced. However, researchers in Singapore think they have come up with a much more environmentally friendly and efficient method of producing the coloured silks without the harsh dying process.

Instead of manually dying the silk, the researchers came up with solutions that could be fed to the silkworms containing natural dyes. The dyes don’t harm the silkworms as they are natural based dyes and researchers found no negative effect on the worms. The silkworms then subsequently produce silk cocoons of the chosen colour. Not only can they make the silkworms produce different coloured cocoons, they can also provide fluorescent and glow in the dark properties to the dyes. This means the silks come straight from the silkworms in the chosen colour and potentially fluorescing.

This means no harsh dying process needs to occur. All that is needed is the extraction of the fibroin fibers and production of the fabric itself. The researchers demonstrated how this could be a potentially much more cost effective and environmentally friendly approach to silk production.

Currently most silk is harvested from silkworms in farm type environments. For this approach silkworms would have to be kept in more controlled lab-type environments so their specific diets could be provided. This could be a possibility, and silk production could take place on a much larger, commercial scale.

There’s not been too much progression with this work yet, but I still think it is pretty awesome. I like the idea of thousands of these multicoloured, fluorescing cocoons hanging around. With increasing pressure on companies to become more “green”, this provides a great opportunity to do so in the silk industry.

Hubert Duprat: Combining Nature and Art

Caddis fly larvae live in the world’s waterways and build themselves protective casings from what they can source in their surrounding environment. Normally this includes small rocks, dirt and vegetation, however, Hubert Duprat left these caddis flies no choice but to choose from some of the finest materials around. The resulting cases, as can be seen, are a one of a kind piece of work sculpted by these larvae.

Hubert provided these flies with the building blocks and the larvae acted as the architects, putting together these parts and creating some stunning results.

Caddis fly larvae aren’t exactly the most beautiful of creatures, and although impressive, their usual casings are rather unexciting. But stick them in a container of gold, pearls and gemstones and you come to appreciate more the skill and work that is put in by these larvae in their incessant need to cover themselves in stuff.

It may seem as if Hubert simply pimped out these fly larvae but even myself, not being a massive bug fan, have to admit to quite fancying a couture caddis..

Merry Pugmas!

Can’t get a dog of your own this Christmas? Why not treat yourself to this lovely tshirt instead? You will be the envy of all of your friends.

Definitely the best present I have received in a long time.

Merry Pugmas

Nails Nails Nails

Recently I’ve had a bit of an obsession with nails. Mine tend to be pretty short and being at university and having to write notes and do labs, absurdly long nails aren’t really practical, but I’d still like them to look half decent. I’m always trying to think of new things to do when I’m painting them and with nail art becoming an increasingly big thing in the fashion world this year I’ve had much inspiration. Initially I just did more simple things like dots or painting my tips a different colour. These required a very steady hand, and I’m pretty wobbly as people go. So it took a few attempts until my dots looked like dots not messy splodges and my lines were vaguely straight. As a tip, cut the end off of tooth picks and use them to get neater dots or to glue on small diamantes or sequins.

I was them browsing about online and found these amazingly patterned nail stickers. They were so much easier than faffing about trying to paint them all fancy and they were pretty cheap. Once you’ve had a go at the first couple its pretty easy after, you just need some nail clippers and scissors and you’re good to go. It says on the pack that they last about 10 days, but I managed to get my last batch to last over 3 weeks. They’re an easy and cheap way to great nails without having to be a nail master yourself or go to get them done proffessionally.
You can get them all over the place with shops like Topshop and Urban Outfitters selling them or you can check ASOS and Amazon.

Patterned Nail Art Stickers

Polka Dot Nail Art Stickers

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Here is a trick I had a go at to get spattered nails. If you simply dip a straw into your nail varnish pots then blow onto your nails you get this really amazing effect. It was rather messy but after a good wash the mess comes off. Love this, so simple, but so effective.

Splatter Nails

%d bloggers like this: