Decomposition of Materiality

Decomposition of Materiality

Womenswear designer Scarlett Yang has envisioned a circular ecosystem, where garments grow, decompose and change shape throughout time and the changing environment. The collection consists of two parts, physical bio textile garments and digital elements. 

A biomaterial dress was created that changes over time due to humidity in the atmosphere, twisting and turning throughout the day. Each piece will act differently depending on geographic location and season. Then, when the piece is ready to be disposed of, it can simply be dissolved, decomposing within 24 hours.


Although the pieces look like glass, they are in fact made from algae extract and silk cocoon protein. The algae biomaterial – made from a mixture of water, coloured dye and algae extract – was poured into a mould in its liquid state, before it was left to dry. The final process saw the application of sericin, a silk cocoon protein. Yang applied this to selective parts of the piece where she wanted the fabric to crease and shrink as an environmental response. The reason for using the protein is that, as well as being biodegradable, it is hydrophobic, so keeps its structure against the warping algae material. Yang used the sericin to save it from going to waste, as the silk cocoon protein is commonly seen as waste in textile manufacturing, particularly in European and Asian silk production plants.


As the garments are made from biomaterials they are able to decompose within hours when exposed to water. When soaked in alkaline water at 80 degrees celsius it can decompose within one hour, or at 60 degrees in less than 24 hours. But the main aim is for the garment to degrade naturally within rain, rivers or in the sea. Due to the materials ingredients the piece is completely safe if it degrades and finds itself within the water system. Also, as many avant-garde pieces are only worn on one occasion these pieces could save a huge amount of waste, while also allowing nature to dictate the structure of each unique piece.


The digital aspect of this project brings biomaterials into the future, showcasing the future of fashion, while also being accessible in current circumstances. The dress itself was generated using a 3D computer model of the texture. This was then turned into a digitally fabricated casing mould using 3D printing and laser-cutting. A 3D simulation of the decomposition process showcases the process and theatrics of the piece, showing it dissolving depending on environmental changes, creating a material life cycle. As well as creating physical garments, 3D modelling was used to generate dress forms, with animations of renders simulating the different outcomes of the dress in different conditions. By using a 360-degree showroom experience Yang was able to bring an exhibition to people who were not able to see the garment first hand.

Scarlett Yang