Clothes Minded

BioFASHIONtech is an ecological fashion lab that grew out of TILL, a think tank community-based studio that inspires action on a local level. An acronym for Today’s Industrial Living Landscapes, TILL is on a mission to examine environmental hazards, particularly those of brownfields (former commercial sites that are often contaminated) and figure out how to regenerate them to create a safer, cleaner world. TILL was founded by Jane Philbrick, a passionate artist, writer and teacher who has taught all over the world. “I believe our task is to reinvent how we live on Earth, starting with regenerating areas like brownfields and making smart choices in real estate development that don’t harm the planet,” she says.

Several years ago, she had an aha moment. “As I was asking questions about what kind of places we want to live in, how to build for the future in a holistic way and how to bring about social and economic vitality to rundown areas, designers were asking these same questions about how to make fashion more sustainable and environmentally friendly,” she explains. Philbrick notes that fashion is a $2.4 trillion industry and many choices by manufacturers and consumers affect the environment. “If we can model positive change, starting with what we wear, it can help inform and shift the culture,” she says. After drawing this parallel between fashion and the earth, BioFASHIONtech (tillbft.com) was born. She says it “models a new relationship with our world, transforming how our clothes are made, what they’re made of and where we choose to buy them, while simultaneously educating the consumer.” BioFASHIONtech began in 2017 with a community conversation called “Runway Earth: The Fashion Designer and the Earth Scientist in Conversation,” organized by TILL in Westport. Philbrick paired up designer Jacob Olmedo, who makes hydroponic couture (wheatgrass sprouted on a wool-base fabric), with a climate scientist she knew from Harvard and MIT to speak and raise awareness about the crossover between a healthy climate and healthy fashion. At an 2018 event held in at the Bruce Museum, Olmedo was paired with the cofounder of the Boston Open Science Lab to model an ecological fashion start-up.

Last year, bioFASHIONtech installed a pop-up lab in the Stamford Mall and hosted three designers commissioned to produce capsule collections of eco-clothing. Last summer at the inaugural bioFASHIONtech Summit, her team held over thirty-five free public workshops, from basic sewing to hand-spinning wool yarns. Lectures about sustainability and the climate encouraged people to build a better relationship with clothes. “We learned that people want to be helpful, doing things from reducing their carbon footprint to buying clothing made of sustainable materials. At a local level, this makes all the difference,” she adds.

This June, they hope to return to Stamford and reprise “Runway Earth” to launch an ecologically positive fashion collection with forty-five looks and ninety garments, including a children’s line, all produced on premises. “We have a finite planet and we’re ripping through it,” she says. “How can people learn to make small changes every day that actually move the needle and are gentler on the earth?”

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