Jessica’s final year collection was inspired by the 2020 Australian bushfires

Inspired by the 2020 Australian bushfires, Jessica’s final year fashion design collection led to her exploring the use of bio-fabricated materials. She learnt how to grow bacteria and transform it into a textile.

What was your inspiration for your collection?

The journey for my collection began by experiencing ‘Black Summer’, a colloquial term for the 2020 Australian bushfires. Living in Sydney’s Central Business District, I was lucky to only be impacted by the smoke, which was often so dense, visibility was less than 30 feet. The smell of burning lingered, manifesting an apocalyptic feel to the city.

The fires brought fear and insecurity. It wasn't just of the present moment, but of what this meant on a larger scale for people’s livelihoods, which could be wiped out by an extreme climate event. These emotions are the driving factors of the collection I’ve created and can be coined under the term ‘eco-anxiety’.

How is your collection sustainable and innovative?

Throughout this experience, I found a renewed appreciation for Mother Nature. Not only for her extreme power but for the contrasting beauty and the connections between all living things.

Mycelia networks (mushroom roots) connect entire ecosystems, sharing information and critical sustenance for survival. This network mirrored the communities that rallied together in the face of these fires and overcame the tragedy together. This connection to people and the planet resulted in mushrooms being used as inspiration for shape, silhouettes, and textures. My designs draw on their voluminous shapes offering physical and emotional protection for a 2030 consumer living in a volatile environment.

My vision was brought to life through upcycling decommissioned firemen’s uniforms. The clothing was designed to be protective in extreme environments while preventing them from polluting the planet in a landfill. Built into each garment is Oxygen tubing which provides access to clean air, helping the consumer breathe in areas of high air pollution or radiation. A SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) was grown and considered speculatively as biohacked material which can recognise a shift in its environment and respond by changing colour, providing a visual warning. It's showcased digitally, using Clo3d (avatar software). Mycelium (the root of a mushroom) is used to create hats, manifesting a positive emotional connection to Mother Nature, and working to reduce eco-anxiety.

What have you loved most about creating your collection?

My collection is developed from the initial desire to use bio-fabricated materials while working out how to make them viable products. I explored how to make materials and the possibilities they hold when used in a speculative design way. I’ve learnt how to grow bacteria and transform it into a textile. The process of developing a textile has been long and challenging with more things going wrong than right but I’ve learnt a huge amount about bio-fabrication in the process along with the ethics and sustainability of textile production.

What were your reasons for wanting to study fashion?

I initially wanted to study fashion because I loved sewing my own clothes. I wanted to learn how to take this further and to create a business. Due to the vastness of the fashion industry, I knew there would be room for movement within my career with opportunities to try different things. I’ve learnt a huge amount of technical knowledge, gained transferable skills, a real understanding of the working world, and what I can offer through studying fashion. It has given me a craft, an outlet, and the skills I need for a successful career.

Designer: Jessica Evans

Photographer: Alina Hibbert

Model: Sach

Styling: Lucie Isaacs