Katie Ledger wants you to make like a serpent and molt—the layers of your clothes, that is. Inspired by the way a snake sheds its skin, London College of Art student envisions garments with layers that slough off without the need for frequent laundering. In addition to slashing the heavy energy burden that washing and drying entail—an average laundry cycle uses up to 40 gallons of water and 5,500 watts of electricity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy—Ledger’s “Shed Me” project imagines clothes that change color and even style with the removal of each successive layer.
OUT WITH THE OLD
Although Shed Me is still in its research phase, Ledger has constructed textile prototypes, along with a video and dissertation, as proof of concept. Currently pursuing a masters in fashion and the environment, Ledger is exploring biomimicry as a way to adapt principles found in nature to solve design problems. “Early practitioners of biomimicry include Leonardo da Vinci and the Wright Brothers, who were inspired by sycamore seeds and pigeons respectively, to design flying machines,” Ledger offers by way of example.
“Shedded” layers can be safely composted or, in some cases, reattached in a different configuration.
Shed Me designs, according to Ledger, would comprise three to eight layers of natural-fiber fabric attached by polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a nontoxic, water-soluble yarn with high tensile strength and flexibility. (Ledger describes it as “fully degradable and a quick dissolver.”) Spraying the outermost layer with water encourages it to peel away. “Shedded” layers can be safely composted or, in some cases, reattached in a different configuration.
In terms of markeability, Ledger sees three collections in the making: a “Color Change” line of print-changing wardrobe basics, a more fashion-forward “Repeat Layers” range and, for those who like the element of surprise, a “Style Change” line of garments that transform from cozy winterwear to lightweight summer outfits through continuous shedding.
Could Shed Me be the golden mean between our desire for novelty and clothing that doesn’t cost the earth?
In a way, what Ledger proposes is a form of disposable fashion. She recommends spraying and removing each layer every four to six weeks, which gives the average garment a shelf life of eight to 12 months. But unlike the cheap threads you pick up on the high street, which fester in landfills at the end of the lives, composted layers add nutrients to the soil.
Could Shed Me be the golden mean between our desire for novelty and clothing that doesn’t cost the earth? Ecouterre would like to see some numbers before we give our verdict, but the concept is certainly compelling.