Aurelie Fontan: techno-craftivist
By BEL JACOBS
Amidst the remarkable young designers seeking to encompass sustainability into their work, Aurelie Fontan still stands out. Since launching her eponymous label last year, the fashion graduate from the Edinburgh College of Art has established herself as a designer with a focus on bio-design and circular economy, using zero waste pattern cutting techniques and waste-free laser cut pattern.
The inspiration came from a documentary - one well known to those working to make fashion more sustainable. “I was developing my final collection, when I saw True Cost,” says Fontan, who also has a background in History of Art. “By chance, I’d also started working in a science lab and so I became interested in how progress and technology, including biology processes, can offer solutions to our current environmental problems.”
Her graduate collection was engineered out of grown yeast and bacteria, 100 per cent biodegradable Kombucha, and the work became the first ever grown bacteria dress to show at Graduate Fashion Week. It was a challenge: “[The dress] involved working with a living organism that grows in very specific conditions and takes about two weeks to fully mature, plus one week for drying. It took around eight months to grow …”
Fontan’s work posits a new genre: that of ‘techno-craft’, in which beautiful, sustainable womenswear is created from a blend of the latest technology and traditional craftsmanship. Her approach has scooped her awards at GFW - Womenswear, Sustainable and Ethical and Catwalk Textiles - and garnered her a place at Fashion Scout’s Ones to Watch. Her work has been featured in Hunger, i-D, WWD, Vogue UK and more.
Earlier this year, Fontan was commissioned by Samsung to make the world’s first 90 per cent recycled and biodegradable couture collection.
Laurels indeed - but the search for ethical innovation goes on. “My primary goal is to start a discussion with as many people as possible on sustainability, bio-design and circular economy — subjects that are not yet consistently discussed,” Fontan told Fashion Scout, where she presented her Autumn Winter 2019 collection this month. “I felt as thought I needed to combine all these elements together to see if they would work.”
AW19, which includes four fully recycled leather outfits, celebrates a possible utopia of future fashion, in which ideas of circle economy and innovation move together. There is the zero waste bio dress while copper in the collection oxidises with time and touch to allow the wearer to write their own story with the garment. Pieces are linked with dissolvable bio-plastic cable ties, normally used in fishing, to allow easy dismantling and recycling.
“In my business model, you can send a garment back to me and I can dissemble all the different elements,” says Fontan. "What was interesting was the problem of mixed fabrics and their non biodegradability. So, starting from plastic, I used different design methods to get to the point where you have a whole narrative from where we are now to where we will be in the future - with mushrooms.
“The main inspirations are the speculative possibilities that craftsmanship will allow through digital processes and synthetic biology,” she continues. “It is a dialogue between the micro and macro world, grown skin against human skin, and automated drawing robots that question the role of artist and machine.” Both Fontan’s designs - and her depth of thought - are remarkable - and what fashion needs right now.