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Spray-on haute couture unveiled at Science in Style Fashion Show

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Imperial and Fabrican Ltd celebrate design-led technology at the College <em>- News</em>

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Tuesday 21 September 2010
By Colin Smith

A collection of spray-on haute couture was showcased yesterday at a fashion show at Imperial College London.

More than 300 key figures from industry, academia, fashion and the media came to the College to see Dr Manel Torres, Spanish fashion designer and academic visitor at Imperial, unveil his 2011 Spring/Summer Collection at the Science in Style Fashion Show. The event celebrated design-led technology developed at Imperial.

The show is a culmination of 10 years of work by Dr Torres, who has collaborated with Professor Paul Luckham, Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemical technology, to create a seamless material called Fabrican Spray-on fabric. The technology enables designers to spray liquid material directly onto the body, using aerosol technology, which dries instantly to make innovative clothes that can be washed and re-worn.

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During the show in the glass entrance of the College, models sashayed down the catwalk, showcasing a selection of gravity defying Fabrican Spray-on haute couture.

Dr Torres drew his inspiration for the collection from the statue of Queen Victoria in the College’s Exhibition Road entrance, and the crinolines that defined the shape of  dresses from the Victorian era. The collection also reflected the architectural shapes and silhouettes of iconic buildings from around the world including Spain’s Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, and the Gherkin in London, designed by Norman Foster – the architect behind Imperial’s Main Entrance.

In the video (below), which features footage of last night’s fashion show, Dr Torres demonstrates how the Fabrican Spray-on technology works and Professor Luckham discusses future applications of this technology.

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“When I first began this project I really wanted to make a futuristic, seamless, quick and comfortable material,” says Dr Torres. “In my quest to produce this kind of fabric, I ended up returning to the principles of the earliest textiles such as felt, which were also produced by taking fibres and finding a way of binding them together without having to weave or stitch them. As an artist I spend my time dreaming up one-off creations, but as a scientist I have to focus on making things reproducible. I want to show how science and technology can help designers come up with new materials.”

The Fabrican Spray-on fabric consists of short fibres that are combined with polymers to bind the fibres together, and a solvent that delivers the fabric in liquid form and evaporates when the spray reaches a surface. The spray can be applied using a high pressure spray gun or an aerosol can. The texture of the fabric can be changed according to what fibres are used such as wool, linen or acrylic, and how the spray is layered.

Fashion is just one of the uses of this technology. Dr Torres has set up the spin-out company Fabrican Ltd with Professor Luckham to explore other applications, such as medicine patches and bandages, hygiene wipes, air fresheners and upholstery for furniture and cars.

Professor Luckham adds: “The fashion application of spray-on fabric is a great way of advertising the concept, but we are also keen to work on new applications for the medical, transport and chemical industries. For example, the spray-on fabric may be produced and kept in a sterilised can, which could be perfect for providing spray-on bandages without applying any pressure for soothing burnt skin, or delivering medicines directly to a wound.”

“Imperial is known for many good things in the worlds of higher education and science. But it is not every day we put on a fashion show to illustrate the creativity behind the scenes,” says Sir Keith O’Nions, Rector of Imperial College London. “Imperial wants to work with more cultural organisations, and become involved in more, creative partnerships to show how science, technology and medicine can capture people’s imaginations, and develop new ways of making life better,” he adds.

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