Science and Fashion A collaboration between salk research institute and mesa college fashion program

The Beginning of the Journey

Scientists and Fashion Designers were chosen to participate in developing designs for the fashion show and gala evening at Salk Research Institute on October 4, 2017. Scientists and designers were paired up and the teams went to work. I met with my science girlfriend Amy Rommel on May 2 for lunch at the Bella Vista restaurant, followed by a tour of The Salk lab. Amy shared her science story with me. She is working with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. The very, very shortened version is that the tumor creates its own blood supply. The first try was to remove the blood supply to starve the tumor. However, the tumor just created a new blood system. The current work is to train the tumor to make itself into a blood supply and give up on being a tumor. A very truncated lay version of this amazing work!

The inspiration was under way. We talked more, Amy shared some images from her work with me and suggested that maybe we could make the garment a metaphor of this story.

We decided the garment should include some representation of the folds that allow the millions of cells that make up the human brain to fit into the cranial space that holds it. It also needed a representation of the actual neurons, the individual cells that make up the brain. They look beautiful in the stained images Amy shared with me.

Most important was finding a way to represent the tumor and its blood supply that are so central to Amy's work.

We both loved this idea and the project was under way!

Oh, and the color palette. Amy chose this beautiful picture from nature as a starting point for our palette!

First step was to create a garment that would be a canvas for the surface embellishments that will tell our story. I chose to knit the garment since that is my favored medium and also because the interlocking loops of the knitted stitches represent the interlinking connections that unite the millions of cells in our bodies into a united structure that works together as a whole human brain and body.

What can't be shared in photographs is the hours of internal work that go into formulating the final idea for a garment that takes into account all of the ideas the designer wants to express. For me, the final decision is shaped by the materials available to work with, much experimentation to determine how the ideas will work in actual practice with the actual tools and materials available. Creativity is most at play, for me, in the interaction between trying on ideas and the problem solving involved in getting around the difficulties that arise and the differences between what I visualize and what actually happens. One of the reasons I love knitting as a medium is because it is less predictable. I am willing to start without nailing down every step because I like what happens when a project grows in an organic way in the interaction between each step and whatever direction emerges as the work unfolds. I am at one of those points now. More to share as the next stage unfolds...

The Journey Continues...

Spent yesterday wandering around in dark halls with only a flickering candle to guide me. I like the bones, the fabric and general shape, of what I have so far but it is missing something and yesterday morning I acknowledged to myself that it looks dowdy and hopeless to me. Whatever else happens at this point the important thing is not to stop. Keep going down that dark hall, and trust illumination will come. I've been here so many times before...

I worked on the jewelry piece today. It represents the blood vessels created by the tumor. It clearly needs to have a clear field of its own so the brain folds need to be at the bottom of the tunic rather than around the top of the bodice. The beautiful Nathalie, my model, tried the tunic and skirt on. So different when it is alive on a human body. We talked about the options. Looking at her in that Downton Abbey inspired long column of beautiful fabric I started describing the brain folds embellishment to her and realized that the original idea was the best. No need for a sharp turn in a new direction. Just go with the flow of the fabric. So on to embellishing starting with brains.

Brain folds looking brainy. Brain folds are sparkly and the yarn works really well with the colors in the garment. But it's a bit dull, still all background and foundation. So what ties the brain together? The astrocytes that are the working organs of the brain and the cells that go awry and create cancer! Yay! Now it's getting exciting!

Here they are, astrocytes waiting to multiply and be applied!

Now you will have to wait until October 4 for the big reveal!

Created By
Anna Walden
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