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Colour Scene Investigation: Colour in the Circular Economy

with thanks to Dr Cat Blackwell, SDC’s Education Manager

Huddersfield University design students investigated colour in the circular economy during a workshop with the SDC. The students examined different fabric samples in teams to find out where the fibres came from, how colour was applied, what the potential applications were for that sample, and how it fits in to a circular economy.

Each team was given a different fibre type including cotton, silk, wool, polyester and nylon. The teams explored the entire life cycle of the fibre, including how and where it was sourced, how many manufacturing processes were involved in the production of the fabric and at which point in the process colour was applied. They explored which dye classes could be used for colouring their particular fibre type and considered the respective advantages and disadvantages of using those dyes.

It was each team’s mission to choose the potential application for the fabric samples and consider which fastness tests would be required for that application. Many thought-provoking issues were raised during discussions regarding the ethical and environmental implications associated with sourcing materials as well as awareness of how textiles have been produced. Towards the end of the workshop, the teams collated their ideas together and reported their findings back to the rest of the group.

The students explored and answered many of the important questions raised in the fashion industry around the colouring of textiles within the circular economy. What is the environmental footprint of your raw materials? Are the materials you have chosen from an ethical and environmentally sustainable source? Could the materials you use be easily re-purposed or recycled? These are some of the many questions we need to ask ourselves during the design process so we can take responsibility for our actions and ensure ethical and environmental sustainability within the circular economy.

The evaluation at the end of the session highlighted just how much the students gained from the day.

‘I was surprised how big a process it is! Never thought about the dye types, the testing processes or how synthetic fibres are made.’

Our thanks go to the students at the Huddersfield University for their enthusiastic contribution to the day, and to the staff at the university for their help in organising and hosting it.

‘Design for a Circular Economy’ is the theme of SDC’s International Design Competition this year, linked to the development of a lifelong learning education pathway. Further details of the competition are available on SDC’s website. If you’re interested in a CSI workshop, please drop us an email.

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