This September, 61 teams of research scientists and fashion designers will hit the runway in a competition hosted by the MIT Media Lab. Dubbed “Descience,” the project fosters collaborations that explore and showcase scientific research.
Designers selected their partners for the competition based on descriptions the scientists submitted of their research. The process was a mutual education: researchers needed to learn how to explain their work to a non-scientific audience; designers had to introduce their collaborators to the world of fabrics and color swatches.
Descriptions of the teams’ projects are featured on the Descience website. Among the participants is Erica Templeman, a designer with Crohn’s Disease, who discovered that her scientist-partner, Torben Bruck, conducts research in fermentation science—the foundation of life-saving drugs Templeman has taken to battle Crohn’s. Together they designed a battle gown made of protein-based materials such as silk and leather, incorporating a textile pattern of protein structures that resemble chain mail.
César Hidalgo is among the scientists from MIT participating in the event, as part of team “A La Node” with designer Amanda Curtis. An associate professor in the MIT Media Lab and head of the Macro Connections group, Hidalgo’s research focuses on macroeconomic theories. In a blog post for the Descience website, he reflects:
“Imagination is not a synonym of randomness, but the creative edge of our thoughts. Thinking is the process by which we actively guide our imagination, and whether the guiding is driven by the logics of formal mathematics or by the aesthetic choices of design principles is irrelevant. It is guided imagination after all. It is by guiding our imagination that we combine concepts and develop the insights needed for our mind to penetrate the mystery of reality. It is in the use of guided imagination, where science meets art.”
The final competition will be judged by a panel of science and design experts, including architect and designer Neri Oxman PhD ’10 and biomedical engineer Sangeeta Bhatia SM ’93, PhD ’97.
Browse the designs created by the Fashion Descience teams.