Clothing styles often seem to change arbitrarily. Designers and clothing companies need to keep selling new products, so they mix up the prevailing fashions every season. Artist Catherine Young imagines a different future of fashion—one that's influenced as much by the ever-growing threat of climate change as it is by style.
After completing her MFA, Young did a residency in South Korea, where she hiked all the 43 mountains in Seoul and took a bit of soil from each one. The experience, she says, showed her firsthand how human activity affects the environment. When Young learned of a residency in Singapore calling for proposals related to climate change and the environment, she didn't hesitate to apply. That's when the Apocalypse Project, a speculative design research project that examines how our lifestyles will change due to climate change, was born.
As part of the Apocalypse Project, Young has created a series called Climate Change Couture: Haute Fashion for a Hotter Planet. The series, generated during her time doing a residency in 2013 at Marina Bay Sands, Tembusu College National University of Singapore, draws on ideas about climate change futures in Singapore that were thought up by researchers at the Singapore-ETH Centre’s Future Cities Laboratory. "I'm really interested in approaching science from a more artistic perspective," she says.
The Thermoreflector, a silver dress meant to be worn by urban residents as they walk hot streets, reflects heat from the atmosphere—but also from the many air conditioning units dotting apartment buildings. "It was drawn from a research project in the lab, about trying to make cities more livable by trying to cool them more efficiently. In Singapore, there are so many air-conditioning units because it's so hot, and the more air conditioning you have, the more uncomfortable it is to walk through," explains Young. "It's projected into the future: What would happen if we don't do something about it now?"
One of Young's favorite pieces in the collection is the Apocalypse Evacuation Suit, a jumpsuit combined with a special gas mask called a Smell Mask, which filters dirty air and replaces it with pleasant scents like lavender and peppermint. Another favorite is the Trash Suit—a dress made out of candy bar wrappers, for when real fabric becomes too expensive to use.
Other designs include the Aquatutu, an inflatable tutu to keep people safe during flooding, and the Bubble, a climate-controlled "personal chamber" that pumps in filtered oxygen and features wireless communication capabilities (The tagline: Your Smartphone, Now Expanded and with Surround Sound).
Now doing a residency at the Mind Museum in her native Philippines, Young is working on her first solo exhibition, tentatively titled The Apocalypse Project: Imagined Futures. The exhibition is set to run from April 15th to June 15th.
She plans on continuing the Climate Couture project, but with new items geared towards the Philippines, which has already experienced some nasty climate disasters, like the recent Typhoon Haiyan. "I'm interested because the apocalypse already kind of happened here," she says. She's also working on a playlist of endangered sounds, among other things.
Check out all of Young's Climate Couture designs in the slide show above.