Interview by Isabella Ampil
When Anastasia Pistofidou moved from Greece to Spain in 2010 to study at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), she already had a Master’s Degree in Architecture under her belt, an eight-year endeavour completed at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
Once in Catalonia, though, Pistofidou found her focus in the field of digital fabrication. In the eight years since she has applied her design and engineering talents to address sustainability issues in the fashion industry. She now heads her research project through the IAAC, Fab Textiles, which develops flexible and wearable materials with various applications.
According to Fab Textiles’ stated mission, the fashion industry has not caught up to the innovation of the rest of the world, relying on practices that pollute the air and water and exploit its labourers. Through Fab Textiles, Pistofidou is tackling these problems on several fronts. For example, the company’s work on bioplastics, a clear and foldable substance made only from gelatin, glycerol, and water, appears on its website in a user’s manual full of instructions for making the material and tips and tricks for its best uses. In addition, making fashion production open source allows individuals to create their products and have greater control over their carbon footprint.
The “biofiltering top” from Fab Textiles, made from a combination of bioplastic and activated charcoal, is even more explicit in its environmental purpose. What looks like a simple shiny black camisole is a shirt designed to absorb pollutants from the air. However, the current iteration of Fab’s bioplastic does dissolve in water, so the best practical applications of such material probably lie outside the realm of garments, which Fab Textiles acknowledges. Their so-called wunderpants, made from bioplastic, wax, and acrylic paint, are meant to be more of an art piece than a piece of clothing, with their scalloped edges, blue sheen, and superhero-inspired cut.
Yet in BioBags, the Fab Textiles team has leveraged the solubility of bioplastic for environmental good. The sleek, pastel-coloured shopping bags in the collection dissolve in a week, as compared to the 450 years it would take a typical plastic bag to degrade. Nevertheless, Pistofidou again acknowledges that Fab Textiles has its work cut out for it – in the case of the BioBags, their high cost of production renders them inaccessible to most.
But Pistofidou’s research team has several exciting products lined up; the explosive potential of digital fabrication peeks through the plastic bags and shirts, alluring and somewhat strange, gesturing at a more harmonious future between ourselves and the natural world.
Architect and founder of Fab Textiles, for those that are not familiar with your background, could you tell us a bit more about what drew you into working in the intersection of digital fabrication and materials?
Nowadays, each one of us defines our proper discipline. Being creative and mastering new digital technologies allows me to love what I do and reinvent it whenever needed. My job is my hobby, and vice versa. As a researcher and faculty of the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Cataluña and Fab Lab Barcelona, I practice digital fabrication techniques combined with biomaterials and biofabrication to innovate and envision a sustainable future for the textile and wearable industry.
RESHAPE competition aims to promote research, design and production of digital ideas, exploring implications and applications of technology and innovation in our society. Why did you decide to get involved?
I have been a promoter and supporter of Reshape since its beginning. Firstly, I firmly believe that we should promote new talents and allow new independent designers to show their innovative work and ideas, and secondly, because I work closely with the founding members of Reshape and share common beliefs about fashion, textiles, and interactive garments.
What technical invention do you think will have more social acceptance or impact in real life in the future?
Assistive technologies for social inclusion. Some call it posthumanism, others transhumanism ( they are different concepts). In our everyday lives, we are not exposed to an essential mass of people with different abilities, and what technologies bring into the scene enables them to be part of our society. Maybe we still find it weird to wear a headset for reading our emotions, but very soon, we will embrace the fact that we can communicate in amazingly different ways.
The wearable technology category challenges designers to propose a new garment solution relevant to the environment and human health. Wearable technologies can communicate with their owners, so the boundaries between physical and digital are blurred. In which ways do you think are interactive and digital technologies changing or affecting human behaviour?
To a certain extent, we need to enable individuals to take over and contribute to the better evolution of our society. Even though digital technologies blur the boundaries of public and private, I also believe that they empower individuals to make decisions and act on improving the surroundings and community.
What directions do you see taking your work into?
Our world needs more sharing. In my practice, the open source aspect is a crucial aspect that impacts society. We are building a community with a new mentality that has the potential to change the current system we all criticize. If I were to project myself and imagine what my work would be like in 5 years, I would say that my digital contribution would be more significant than my physical presence.
What is your chief enemy of creativity?
Creativity is the enemy of creativity. Working with a non-creative person may be much more helpful than working with a genius. After all, at some point, you need to put your creativity into practice and be methodological and rigorous.
You couldn’t live without…
Reflection and projection of ourselves and our society. We cannot believe that we are reinventing the wheel. There is much to learn from humanity and much to reuse, recycle, and rehabilitate. At the same time, we need to be creative and envision to evolve and overcome barriers.