COLLABORATION BETWEEN FASHION AND SCIENCE; AN INTERVIEW WITH TEAM SEAMSTEIN
ELAINE, how would you describe Benjamin's research? What drew you to
it in the first place and what are some of the ideas or images that were
Benjamin is researching autophagy, the degradation of cellular components
by enzymes of the same cell, and its role in aging and neurodegenerative
diseases. This involves research on the degradation of pathogenic proteins
in tissues and how these proteins, in turn, affect autophagy under different
conditions and stimuli. This research is important to develop specific
strategies for how the detrimental effect of pathogenic proteins can be
diminished by improvement of the autophagy system. The black and white
image representing bands of protein was what caught my eye initially. I
was drawn to its simplicity visually and thought it would translate well to a
textile. (See screen shot of the image imported into the back yoke pattern
piece of the garment.)
BENJAMIN, do you think Elaine has a good understanding of your
research? What would you like to add? Is it challenging to talk about your
work with someone who isn't a scientist?
I think that Elaine caught on immediately to the essence of my research. I
was really surprised at her very well thought out questions that attacked
the root of the problem and made me think of ways to explain complex
things in simple terms. I think it is always challenging to talk about the
work that you do, not only to non-scientist but to anyone who is not in
your field. Many assumptions are made from the general knowledge that
someone "should" have. In my case, I have always seen communicating
science and research as the most crucial role as a scientist. What can we
do if we lock ourselves in our own knowledge and understanding and are
unable to reach out to everybody who is interested in listening to us. To
explain what I do, I try to always use an analogy of a common thing that
you would do in your day-to-day life, and then explain in the same terms
how the cell is functioning.
BENJAMIN, tell us about the look that Team Seamstein is creating. What
message does the piece convey?
As a team we are creating a trench dress. We tried to focus on an essential
component used by almost every scientist, the lab coat, and give it a
fashionable twist to change its conservative look. To make it unique we
decided to add scientific images that reflect real experiments. I think the
message we are trying to convey here is: Science is fun and it can also
be fashionable. Most important we are communicating science with
this garment and it creates a feeling of wonder and curiosity from those
patterns. Also, at the end of the day, the way we dress reflects who we are,
and anybody can start being a scientist by dressing like one.
ELAINE, anything you would like to add?
Benjamin works with proteins. Protein is an identifier. We have taken the
most used and universally identified lab equipment for a scientist; the lab
coat, and modified it to add interest by incorporating fashion details and
the pure scientific image. By highlighting the image on the dress we hope
to provoke conversation about it and what it represents while conveying a
sophisticated fashion style through the design.
BEJAMIN, please tell us what tools your team is using to communicate
your research. Have you learned anything new about fashion design?
I think this is my turn to acknowledge Elaine and the tremendous and
innovative work she has done to communicate my research in our trench
dress. From our initial talks with some "mood boards" which was where
our project started to take shape, we were able to convey the feeling
we wanted to give. She also did a great amount of work from a graphic
perspective, looking at ways to change our image in order to reflect what
we wanted to convey. From a material perspective, different materials
where selected to best fit the trench dress, reflect its movement and show
our scientific image by producing a fashionable pattern in the garment. I
have definitely learned quite a bit about fashion design with this project
and also learned the similarities we have with experimental design. From
the initial brainstorm and research to generate ideas, to the sketching
process, selection and construction, to the final edits and creation we hope
to showcase science through fashion. Every single step could be easily
translated to what a scientific project and experiments are about.
How can you support each other moving forward?
The best way for me to support Benjamin moving forward is to make sure
that he is in the communication loop and to seek his input to the design
process. This will ensure that he is well informed about the direction of
the design and included in a cohesive team effort. Benjamin’s input is
invaluable and aids in the process when I am making design decisions. It is
also important for me to stay inquisitive about his research and continue to
learn from it.
The best way to support Elaine moving forward is to be absolutely honest
about my impressions in the different steps taken during the design process.
It is not easy to give technical feedback or justify why you like one design
more than another, when you do not have the specific knowledge required
for it. As long as you do it from an honest perspective and try to contribute
for the better of the project, things move forward. Elaine's design abilities
to change and transform things from what we discussed was absolutely
fantastical, and I think we were able to merge our ideas in every step of the