Coperni’s Spring/Summer 2023 fashion show in Paris on Friday evening, model Bella Hadid was sprayed with a liquid that solidified on body contact, resulting in a stretchy ‘second skin’ that was coaxed into a dress by hand sculpting and scissor work. One article said “a group of scientists” sprayed the liquid on Hadid and that it contained “cotton or synthetic fibres, suspended in a polymer solution”.
When I saw the video of this dress being created like most I was in awe. The performance was reminiscent of the era that brought us Alexander Mcqueen His robot spray-painted, titled ‘Dress No.13’, was created live on the catwalk during his Spring/Summer 1999 show. A era of fashion that inspired many to pursue careers in fashion including myself.
But amongst the beauty, the innovation I had to wonder what this mean for sustainability is this a possible future of garment manufacture.
This instantaneously materialized dress is not a magic trick, but a innovations in material science more than two decades in the making. The man behind the creation is Manel Torres, who in 2003 created the substance used on Hadid, Fabrican (. His inspiration? Silly string and spiderwebs. His idea was to elevate the coarse cords of the silly string into a finer fabric that could be dispersed through a mist. Torres explained in a 2013 Ted Talk that when this spray-on fabric comes in contact with air, it turns into a solid material that’s stretchy and feels like suede.
For its part, Fabrican states on its website that it uses “fibres recycled from discarded clothes and other fabrics. The technology can also utilise biodegradable fibres and binders in place of fossil-based polymers to reduce the carbon footprint of material and manufacturing.”
The company also stated that once the products have finished their useful life, they can be re-dissolved and sprayed again. This eliminates the notion of using single-use plastic. The website additionally claims that the liquid can be made using bio-based materials instead of fossil-based polymers.
In response to the question, Dr. Torres stated that the solution was composed of textile fibers and that the binder was a synthetic polymer. Due to his clarification, we have requested a clarification from Dr. Manel as he only referred to the cellulose-based formulation.
The license to pollute granted to fashion by the public is only valid if the consumers say so. This is a metaphor for the relationship between newness and pollution. The former is the motivation for the fashion industry, while the latter is the consequence of the pollution.
Ultimately, it seems the performance was a win in marketing terms. Coperni’s Instagram following climbed from 310,000 to 496,000 within 24 hours after the show – representing a comprehensive win in the pursuit of ‘likes’ and ‘follows’, but not in terms of public sentiment and relevance.