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Designing Science

September 29, 2014

As the first national competition that challenges fashion designers to fuse their visions with scientific discovery, Descience brings research to the runway in the form of elegant and inspired garments. Eight Westphal College students and alumni were among the 61 fashion designers chosen from across the country and around the world to participate in the high-profile competition, which culminated in a fashion show at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab on September 29.

Emerging designers, design school faculty and students, and designers from large fashion houses participated in the competition which started with a call for applications in January 2014. The scientists they collaborated with came from around the world and from diverse research fields that ranged from genome engineering to biogeochemistry. The teams, each with one scientist and one designer, selected one another based on their research and design. They collaborated for months to create garments that married the scientists’ specialized research with the designers’ innovative visions.

Drexel entrants included four current Westphal fashion design students—undergraduate Lela Thompson and graduate students Nancy Volpe Berlinger, Shih-Hui Chang and Xiaozhu Li—as well as four alumni, including Arielle Gogh, Bravo TV’s “Styled to Rock” star Autumn Kietponglert, Katya Roelse and Amy Stolzsfus. Their resulting works are striking garments that visually articulate the structures, processes and systems in their research partners’ fields. One dress reflects the shape-shifting nature of the immune system; another utilizes foam to mimic the stages of biofilm development; and another explores astrochemistry, with iridescent material translating the light seen from space and a shoulder zipper that imitates the spectra.

Recent alum Arielle Gogh finished as one of the competition’s top five finalists for her elegant dress design, which orchestrates layers and colors to reflect the varying sizes and colors of tumors in the body. Gogh collaborated with Esther Baena, a research fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Click here to view images of all Westphal student and alumni designs in the competition, and click here to learn more about Descience.