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Research on the Runway: DESCIENCE 2014


Graduate Fashion student Shih-Hui (Sherry) Chang ‘015 and scientist Pablo Rojas
Photo credit: Shih-Hui Chang

DESCIENCE 2014 was a project in which the world of scientific discovery offered inspiration for the innovative minds of fashion designers. It was a national competition that created collaborations between designers and scientists and brought research to the runway, providing a platform for emerging designers and for science. For this inspiring collaboration scientists came from diverse fields of research, from chemical engineering to biomedical imaging and from research communities across Europe, the United States and South America. Fifteen finalists were chosen from 61 entries by international fashion designers and students. Eight of the finalists were students and alumni of the Drexel Fashion Design program. Teams, composed of one scientist and one designer, were selected on the basis of their research and design. The competition culminated with a fashion show featuring the collaborative creations at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA, on Sept. 29, 2014. After being exhibited at the Koch Institute during Boston Science Week, the fifteen finalists’ designs were featured in an international traveling exhibition.

For their team team Obuba Shih-Hui Chang and scientist Pablo Rojas used foam to mimic film and a net for the understructure of the garment to reflect the different stages of biofilm development. Said Rojas,“The collaboration isn’t about sharing the same aesthetic. It’s about breaking the ice between the sciences and the arts.”


Graduate Fashion student Nancy Volpe Berlinger ‘18
Photo credit:Ken Yanoviak

Nancy Volpe Berlinger and scientist Ulf Gehrmann, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institut Curie in Paris, France, created an elegant garment for team Epic inspired by the crucial function of the gut in regulating the immune system. The shape- shifting dress reflects the ever-changing nature of the immune system.


Graduate Fashion student Xiaozhu Li and scientist Hui-Min Chen 
Photo credit: Ken Yanoviak

Xiaozhu Li collaborated with Hui-Min Chen from the University of Massachusetts on a garment inspired by Chen’s genome engineering based on fly ovaries for team Yuan. The glossy skirt symbolizes the vivid energy of mother origin. The structure on the shoulder represents the DNA. Braiding of several different materials shows both the complexity of the ovary and the intricate genetic design.