Christina Haxholm: Kering Award Finalist

Image: Christina Haxholm

Image: Christina Haxholm

Today we hear from Christina about her work which intersects fashion, materials, technology and biology. Read below to find out more about her project for Stella McCartney.

Please briefly explain your project.
CH: ‘In Vitro Fur’ is essentially a speculative prototype for cultural discussion.

The field of synthetic biology and genetic modification is rapidly expanding, and is entering the realms of Fashion.

Products like Modern Meadow’s in-vitro grown leather and Kraig Biocraft’s Spider silk is a step towards a future where materials for fashion are grown in labs, and organisms are modified to suit our need for material production. Genetics is becoming a toolbox to create novice organisms, and it raises questions about the sacredness of ‘life’.

This often stirs up mixed emotions from the general public, but the truth is, that 50% of our medicine and much of our food is already genetically modified. This is already our reality. The artistic visualization of technological innovation can help us to start the discussion, and navigate our actions, before the technology is even finalized.

I believe that the promises of synthetic biology, in relations to materials, are incredibly exciting, but I think the technological innovation should be democratic and up for discussion.

What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
CH: I think that anyone who has ever engaged themselves in the process of trying to create something “sustainable” will tell you, that it can mean a million things.

The fashion and production system is incredibly complex, and the whole notion of sustainability is constantly up for debate.

I am at a stage where I believe that sustainability is a holistic concept, but living up to every aspect of it is very difficult, as designers and as members of a constructed society. I believe in personal change and minimizing my footprint on the environment, but I also believe that the goal of ‘sustainability’ should not and can not be up to individuals and the lifestyle choices we make – it has to happen on a structural level as well, and it has to be backed by governments.

Seeing garment workers having to fight for their rights, wages and lives, and having the government and police work against them, blows my mind. But, seeing a rise in developing countries banning the use of plastic bags, makes me hopeful.

How do you see the fashion industry changing in the next 20 years?
CH: I can’t pin down a future – our predictions of “the future” has been proven wrong again and again.

What I can do, is to imagine futures that can help us to understand and critically evaluate the reality we experience today.

I hope that the future is open to concepts like unconditional basic income and sharing rather than owning, and to new legislation on the responsibility of companies regarding waste management and fair working conditions.

I hope that our expanding understanding of (synthetic) biology and it’s possibilities, will make us feel more related to and immersed in Nature, and I hope that we can design an industrial revolution 2.0, that eliminates the need for crude oil and is built on renewable energy and materials.

But I don’t know if these hopes will come true – all I can do, is to check if I, in my current reality, am working towards it or not, and correct my steps as I go along.

How would you engage others in ideas about sustainability?
CH: Looking back at the process of my own interest in the field of synthetic biology and the way we engage with ‘life’, it started as a fascination of the seemingly endless possibilities and incredible promises of synthetic biology.

Soon after, I found myself asking “why” more often than “how”. The critical questioning of the practice and why we do it, lead me to wonder about our perception of ‘being natural’ and the ethical frameworks we employ in our engagement with Nature.

My interest in sustainability in general, evolved in a similar way; it started as a (negative) fascination of the many problems that I saw in the fashion industry and a wish to fix it all, and evolved into questions around the purpose of fashion and the ‘consumer society’, and whether it truly makes us happy.

For me, interest and engagement involves wonder and fascination, and then critical questioning and self-reflection – and if I were to try to systematically engage others, I would probably try to replicate a similar process.