The London Fashion Week designer explains his work with Procter & Gamble on its Future Fabrics initiative.
A fter creating a machine-washable capsule collection for Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) Future Fabrics event in Milan in November, you are now working alongside the firm’s scientists to explore the potential of machine-washable fabrics in fashion. What was the appeal of this for you?
I thought it would be really interesting to play with people’s preconceptions by designing things they didn’t necessarily think they would be able to put in the washing machine. So with the combination of that and the developments that progressive mills are making, there’s an interesting future. We want to produce clothes that can be worn, aren’t going to decay too much, and that have a slightly longer shelf life without becoming all worn and knackered.
How will the partnership work?
I’m a consultant to P&G, so we’ve had meetings at its Global Innovation Centre for Fabric Care in Brussels. I went with an open mind; I had no idea what it was going to be like. I have been around all the labs, the wash tests and the perfumery, where it does all the fragrance development for [fabric softener] Lenor. The kind of work P&G does is incredible. There are a lot of things you don’t actually see, such as the developments with its new [washing liquid] Ariel 3-in-1 Pods. There are things that work with fibres which help to give them a much longer life and not destroy them. The head scientist, who has worked there for more than 20 years, told me that to make a new Ariel product takes eight years of development. It’s quite amazing.
Will you produce more capsule collections with P&G?
The first one was a concept project. We’ve got some other ideas in the pipeline for some more commercially viable pieces in the new year.
What are you hoping to achieve with the collections?
I want to get across the fact that they’re pieces that you wouldn’t normally consider putting in a washing machine - that you’d be terrified to - which I think is one of the big challenges with the project. People are scared about putting things in washing machines if they think they’re going to get damaged. We have to reinforce the care message - that’s the challenge of it all.
Will this influence the other projects that you do?
From a fabric and development perspective, it would be great to make it possible to use a bigger percentage of our collection in that manner. It would make sense and be a good way to go forward with things.
How difficult has it been to reconcile washing certain fabrics - such as silks - at 30 degrees?
This is the bigger picture challenge. A combination of working with mills and a company like P&G to develop a silk that is not going to become worn out when you put it in a washing machine - that’s the kind of future development I think will be really interesting.
People don’t associate the incredible things you put on the catwalk with something that could be put in a washing machine. Looking after them in any kind of practical manner can be challenging. Exactly. It was quite interesting in P&G’s research [into sustainability] to see how people wash and wear something 20 times, and then they’ve had enough of it - the interest wanes. It is interesting to see how [sustainability] could be brought into the high-end world, from my own side.
How was the initiative launched at P&G’s Future Fabrics event in Milan in November?
P&G got some very interesting people involved. People from [Paris textile show] Première Vision made a presentation about their concepts and thoughts on where the whole conversation can go. And the lovely Professor Louise Wilson from Central Saint Martins gave her advice in her own formidable manner, playing devil’s advocate. The aim of the day was just to get people thinking about it really.
How long is the relationship set to run for?
We are going to be working together for a year. On those trips to Brussels a ton of things came to light, which we discussed further. P&G said “Brilliant, we’ve never thought of it like that”. Lots of conversational things came up to get P&G thinking in a different way, and I suppose in a more-fashion related manner. I’m in the fashion business, and as much as I love the world of craftsmanship, there’s a very interesting side to see how that can work with technology - it gets me going.