Textiles, Colour & Culture

You may want to check out another blog I recently started which focuses on textiles, colour and culture. It is called “Inside My Mother’s Closet, as I was inspired after I raided my mother’s closet and her African textiles. Here is the link: https://insidemymotherscloset.wordpress.com/

Multicoloured Natural Phenomena

Waking up to an  overcast sky on a Monday morning doesn’t do wonders for the mood. I decided to explore some picturesque places that would definitely brighten and add colour to anyone’s day.

Roussillion Ochres

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From yellow through to violet, iron oxides in the sand colour the cliffs around Roussillion, France.

Ochre Mines below the village of Roussillon in the Luberon of Provence. Image by James Martin

Ochre Mines below the village of Roussillon in the Luberon of Provence. Image by
James Martin

The rich deposits of ochre pigments made Roussillon famous not only for its beauty but also for its wealth in the textile industry – “as many as seventeen different shades of dye were manufactured from the local rock during the 18th and 19th centuries and into the 20th”. To protect the site from degradation or complete destruction, the mining of ochre in this area is now prohibited.

This video beautifully illustrates the story of Roussillion and its ochres.

The Seven Coloured Earths

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Situated on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, lies this multi-coloured beauty. seven seven earth It is the only place in the “world where one can see earth of seven different colors in one place” – red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow. The time of day influences the colour and colour intensity.

The vivid colours have not only captivated tourists as geologists have long been fascinated with the dunes  “ever since they were first discovered. This natural phenomena has several unsolved mysteries. The colors never disappear in spite of torrential downpours and the sand dunes never erode. In addition, the Coloured Earths has a strange property of settling into their individual colors. Even if they are mixed with other colors, they will eventually settle back into layers of individual color”.

Multicoloured Lake

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Multi-coloured lake. Image from: http://scenery.cultural-china.com

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Located in Jiuzhaigou, China this lake has an exquisite patchwork of colours: pale red, bright yellow, greenish black, dark blue and pale blue.

This colourful phenomenon results from the distributional difference of calcium deposits, algae, ferns and sunken plants on the bottom of the lake.

Hidden Engineering Connections in Lux Items

So what happens when you put some iconic luxury brands into a 3D medical imaging scanner? Well, you get some amazing, semi-transparent images that reveal some interesting engineering connections!

This x-ray image of the classic Christian Louboutin stiletto reveals the metal structure at the heart of the interior design. Interestingly, the metal used in quality high heels was originally patented for the aircraft industry after the second world war.

Below is the inside of a $9000 Hermès saddle. This innovative design was patented by Hermès in 2010 and in the below x-ray “you’ll learn that the saddle’s structure is formed from light carbon fiber, and its padding uses the same memory foam technology as high-end beds, which give the saddle the effect of being instantly “broken.””

These are just two of the images found in this 13 piece exhibition created by  LuxInside art collective.

Colour Changing Chalice

Not only a tongue twister, this colour changing chalice left scientists in knots as they struggled for decades to understand how it worked. Known as the Lycurgus Cup, it is both the only  figural example of a type of vessel known as a ‘cage-cup’ and the only complete Roman glass object made from dichroic glass.
Lycurgus Cup is made of dichroic glass and appears jade green when lit from the front. © Trustees of the British Museum

Lycurgus Cup (4th century AD) is made of dichroic glass and appears jade green when lit from the front. © Trustees of the British Museum

What is so fascinating about this chalice is that is changes colour depending if light is shone from the front or back. This colourful secret intrigued scientists and it wasn’t  until 1990 they attributed this colour change to nanotechnology.
The Roman artisans “impregnated the glass with particles of silver and gold, ground down until they were as small as 50 nanometers in diameter, less than one-thousandth the size of a grain of table salt.”  When light hits the metal nanoparticles, the electrons in the metal are excited in ways that alter the colour depending on the observer’s position.
Lycurgus Cup is made of dichroic glass and appears blood red when lit from the back. © Trustees of the British Museum

Lycurgus Cup is made of dichroic glass and appears blood red when lit from the back. © Trustees of the British Museum

I stumbled upon this beautiful chalice in a recent Smithsonian Magazine article as it seems scientists are tamping into this 1,600-year-old “technology” to create “super­sensitive new technology that might help diagnose human disease or pinpoint biohazards at security checkpoints”.
If you’re like me and want to see the real thing you need to get yourself down to the British Museum.

Entomology + E.A Séguy = Fabulous Textiles

I can’t believe I only just discovered Eugène Séguy ((1890 – 1985)…where have I been living?! He was a French entomologist who used his scientific knowledge to create fabulous and faithful illustrations and designs of butterflies and insects. He then transformed these into wonderful textile designs. His works spans both the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods and frankly, I’m just captivated.

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Apparently, “Séguy wanted to use his artistic skill to glorify the sublime beauty of nature, creating what he called a ‘world of sumptuous forms and colours.’” I think he did just that!

seguy3I love the bold, contrasting colours…am I the only one that thinks they give off a west African textiles vibe?

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Clothing of the Future

Just discovered this funny video highlighting what fashion designers in 1939 predicted for the year 2000! What makes it even more funny is that when you sit back and think about it nothing has changed. Well, okay we’ve moved on a bit as we’re not predicting the exact same things and our predictions are a little more sophisticated (to keep up with the times) but on a general level we’re still forecasting wearable tech – functionality embedded in our clothes through technology.

Google Glass getting fashions stamp of approval at Diane Von Furstenberg Spring 2013 / via Getty

Google Glass getting fashions stamp of approval at Diane Von Furstenberg Spring 2013 / via Getty

Yes, in this video they talk about wearable tech – “an electric belt will adapt the body to climatic changes” and male outfits will be fitted with a phone and radio. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know wearable tech has been a big deal the last few years with everyone predicting it’ll be the next big thing. Now tech giants have entered the arena this “future” may be closer to reality with the launch of Google Glass next year.

So, if wearable tech does take off what will our future be like? Well CNN recently imagined such a thing and after consulting some experts this is how a day in 2015 pans-out.

Ever wanted to know when someone wwas staring at you? Now you can with Ying Gao's two dresses made of photoluminescent thread and eye tracking technology. The dress becomes "alive" when it detects a spectator's gaze.

Ever wanted to know when someone was staring at you? Now you can with Ying Gao’s two dresses made of photoluminescent thread and eye tracking technology. The dress becomes “alive” when it detects a spectator’s gaze.

Dresses Grown Magnetically

Love, love , love these dresses which were created in a collaboration between Dutch designers Iris van Herpen and Jólan van der Wiel! What’s so special about these dresses (and why I love them) is because they were “grown” by magnets.

A model wearing one of the magnetic dresses along with a pair of 3D printed shoes. Image from (http://www.irisvanherpen.com/haute-couture#wilderness-embodied-haute-couture)

A model wearing one of the magnetic dresses along with a pair of 3D printed shoes. Image from http://www.irisvanherpen.com

The dresses are part of Iris van Herpen’s Wilderness Embodied Haute Couture collection and were shown as part of the Autumn Winter 2013 fashion show in Paris earlier this month.

“Iris van Herpen focuses on the forces of nature, with a back and forth between innovation and craftsmanship. Beyond simple visual inspiration, this wonder of the natural world forms the basis of wild experimentation. With the help of artists, scientists and architects, Iris van Herpen explores the intricacies of these forces trough the medium of fashion, and the sensitive poetics that have long characterized her aesthetic vocabulary.Trough her collaboration with artist Jolan van der Wiel, who has spent several years pondering the possibilities of magnetism, they have created dresses whose very forms are generated by the phenomenon of attraction and repulsion.”

Close up of magnetic dress and the protrusions created by the magnetic force.

Close up of magnetic dress and the protrusions created by the magnetic force.

“To do this they manipulated a material made from iron fillings mixed into resin.
This composite material was added to fabric in small sections then pulled by magnets, creating a spiky texture and unique patterns.” You can read more here.

You may be surprised to learn that iron fillings suspended in a carrier fluid are used in car brakes, bridges and other bits of engineering (great little connection between fashion and engineering)! A few years ago I worked on a show about smart materials and magnetorheological fluids featured in it –  Jolan van der Wiel’s material sounds very much like this smart material. You can see the show here.