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Kering Award Winner – Dian-Jen Lin

Image: Dian-Jen Lin

Image: Dian-Jen Lin

For her project Dian-Jen explores carbon reduction and her project poses the question: what if a t-shirt could make more oxygen than a tree? She tells us a little more about her project for Stella McCartney as part of the Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion 2017.

So, tell us about your project?

By identifying the gap within the mitigation hierarchy from Stella McCartney and the carbon reduction challenge faced by Kering, I propose a different approach to understanding sustainability: Regenerative Sustainability Activism.

Instead of taking a passive reductionism or down/re/upcycling approach, Regenerative Sustainability Activism advocates proactive engagement from an industrial entry point. Essentially, it is about making sustainability as easy and accessible as daily conveniences like putting on clothes and commuting.

One great example is to design garments that have photosynthetic or pollution-filtering properties. This will allow the fashion industry to have an output for carbon negativity rather than reducing or offsetting the carbon footprint. With this concept in mind, I embarked on the research of developing the Post-Carbon Material. While “post-carbon” refers to “post-carbon-emission”, since photosynthesis absorbs carbon dioxide and generates oxygen, it becomes the obvious starting point. I aim to create a series of Post-Carbon Material samples. My research is unprecedented; therefore, I am still at a preliminary stage, gathering my own raw data through experiments. Until now, the entanglement between fibres and photosynthetic microorganisms on a microscopic scale is proven. By maintaining a suitable living condition, the material itself becomes an incubator for healthy colonies to perform photosynthesis. I am able to find several feasible matches between different species and textile samples and the firstly projected oxygen generation results have been optimistic: 1 Post-Carbon T-shirt can produce up to 104% of the oxygen generated by a tree in 24 hours.

What is your biggest sustainability concern?

Collective indifference, selective ignorance. No matter how hard the scientists and academics have been trying to convey the environmental crises we are facing now, there are still so many problems now even though various ecological awareness campaigns have been fighting since the 70s. More than 40 years have passed, yet to this day, we are still struggling to coexist with our environment.

To a certain extent, I think there is a collective indifference on issues that do not pose a direct threat to one’s comfort. The lack of contingency and the misuse of media make the public numb to the actual lurking monster, and thus, the selective ignorance.

For the same reason, I believe that sustainability needs to be perceived differently as well as the way that information has been delivered to the public, which is essentially why I find my project necessary and timely as not only an alternative interpretation to “sustainability” but also an easily accessible intervention to positively engage with the environment.

How do you think sustainability challenges will alter the fashion industry in the future?

Sustainability challenges are the ultimatum from both the environment and the consumers. If ignored, not only the current pollution will increase and result in even more serious climate change but brands can risk losing their conscious customers. I see these challenges as a critical point (of success or failure) for the fashion industry to finally take on its social and environmental responsibilities and shift its role into a medium for initiating change.

There are many aspects of the fashion industry that are still very “old-fashioned”. The labour intensity, the source opacity, the sales-driven mentality and the constant drive for something new are definitely not helping the Planet move towards a more sustainable future. However, fashion has an omnipresent influence. By channeling sustainability issues through fashion, the message can be spread further than ever. Thus, fashion has the power to make everyone acknowledge the need to change and take action upon that.

To this point, sustainability conscious designers, scientists, activists and entrepreneurs have been working towards better supply, manufacturing and business model alternatives. Even though we have only reformed little bits and pieces throughout the life cycle of fashion, these elements will hopefully be joined altogether one day to create new systems and lead the public towards a more sustainable lifestyle.


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