Environmentally conscious fashion through responsible coloration techniques applied to sustainable fabrics : colouring outside the lines
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Colour for fashion and textiles is an immediately obvious aesthetic concern, both for designer and consumer. The environmental consequences in the creation and application of colour and the implications of the processes used in aiming to produce future sustainable fashion and textiles are less obvious and often overlooked. The purpose of the research described in this thesis was to explore reducing the environmental impact of coloured fashion and textiles through how they are designed and produced, questioning if coloured fashion and textiles can be sustainable? The research was conducted at the design/technology interface, carried out in collaboration with Lenzing, an Austrian fibre manufacturer. The newly developed interdisciplinary methodology provides a design driven framework from which to explore the relationship between fibre, colour and garment to identify the challenges and opportunities in producing coloured fashion & textiles. The creativity of design thinking is underpinned with the technical inquiry of coloration technology. The outcomes of the research provide innovative sustainability solutions for designing and producing coloured fashion and textiles. The thesis establishes the current state of knowledge for the designing and producing of coloured fashion and textiles with reduced environmental impact, exploring both natural and synthetic sources of colour. A gap in knowledge relating to the sustainable coloration of cellulose fibres is highlighted resulting in the research direction being specifically focused on the regenerated cellulose fibre lyocell. The research outcomes provide two key approaches to colour for fashion and textiles, each based within the biological lifecycle, these being; sustainable and responsible coloration. For sustainable coloration where the biological life cycle is uninterrupted, a ‘cyclical model’ is developed, specifically focused on the utilization of a natural dye extracted from a by-product of lyocell fibre manufacture, this model provides a method for sustainable coloration that is of a commercial scale and technical standard. For responsible coloration, where the biological life cycle is interrupted through the introduction of additional chemical’s for pre and post coloration stages as well as the use of petrochemical based synthetic dyes during coloration a carefully selected set of reactive dyes is used that provide minimal environmental impact, the preparation and finishing stages are explored and a method of best practice developed that minimises chemical, energy and water usage of pre-creative coloration stages. Within the responsible coloration research the technical inquiry identifies the use of bi-functional dyes, the chemistry of these dyes inspires the creative inquiry and research outcome of ‘bi-surface fabrics’, screen print and digital print methods are merged with technical processes and auxiliary chemical’s minimized or removed to create a new approach to coloration that reduces environmental impact and provides an innovative bi-surface fabric. Through creating two surfaces within a single piece of fabric, the designer essentially can design a second life at the initial design stage for the garment the fabric is used to construct, ultimately extending the lifetime of the garments use phase within its lifetime to optimize the embedded energy from production stages and reduce waste from premature disposal. The thesis presented involves traditional argument encompassing elements of both technology and design. As part of the design research process, a physical collection of samples and prototype garments was also produced, and these are referenced and documented photographically within the thesis.