Salk Women & Science Design and Discovery Fashion Showcase TeaM: Nuclear Warriors

Bettina Lehman-Scientist, Lauren Jackson-Designer, Mariah Naea-Model

What initially struck me about Bettina Lehman's research was it's narrative quality; a scientist in the midst of her work, researching the potential for external stressors to alter cellular proteins that might ultimately affect the organization of our DNA.

Slide Image; "Organoid"

I, for one, would have thought a person's DNA was fixed, a given inheritance, like a blood type. But instead, Salk research points to the potenial for DNA to be changed by external forces; a daily molecular drama improvised by worlds in flux.

Slide Image; "Histology of Breast Tissue"

We ultimately named our team, "Nuclear Warriors." Our muse is a modern warrior princess. Her plight at once beautiful, elegant and tragic. Her garment would represent her genetic endowment, her DNA, and the chaos that ensues at a molecular level as her cellular proteins are subjected to stress overtime. It would have a scrappy, cobbled together, random quality and a sense of entrapment. Our princess is at war with the external world and at war with herself, as her molecular story unfolds.

When I first met Bettina at a Salk luncheon, she described the cellular proteins as lemon shaped. This generated the idea for lemon shapes and the lemon- yellow color in our palette. Gray came from looking at many diagrams of DNA while doing on-line research to better understand the geometric make-up of DNA. When we met again in her lab, Bettina showed me the live breast tissues she studies under a microscope. I could hardly believe how close the actual cell colors and shapes were to the crochet pieces I had started making. A very lucky serendipity.

While the basic concept for the garment remained fairly constant and strengthened overtime, our overall design and methods of fabrication took a few twists and turns.

While our initial design idea for the sleeve piece was to be an "armour of lemon shaped proteins," various initial fabrication attempts moved from a plan of felting 3-D lemon shapes, to using free-form crochet and beading.

Initial Design Concept
Final Design Concept
Our princess warrior wears a mask on the battlefield

To fabricate the DNA skirt, two layers plus an interior layer of batting was cut as a circle skirt, then cut into one long continuous spiral. The layers are quilted, edged and a wire runs the 20+ feet length of the skirt to give it its shape. The skirt is held up by interior straping and is meant to shift as the model walks, being altered by stress.

Our warrior princess, Mariah, test fitting the under jumpsuit.

It has been a great honor and privilege to be a part of this exciting, educational and edifying event. The opportunity to engage with so many smart, creative, ambitious and talented people keeps the fabric of our community vibrant and the creative spirit alive. Thanks to Salk for having the vision to create this special event, and to Mesa College for providing both the technical and fashion design know-how, as well as the tireless pursuit for excellence and opportunity for it's student body.

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