Living in the city can isolate us from the natural world. Skyscrapers soar above instead of trees, while laneway stench emanates from the city grid. Bio-accessories is a series of wearable couture pieces which mask the unpleasant sights, sounds and scents of the city. Each piece incorporates a living organism to accompany the wearer throughout their day. The wearer tends to the animal or plant, which in turn reciprocates with fresh air, light, greenery, privacy or birdsong.
As a concept, Bio-accessories comments on the political responsibility we have to green our cities and suggests a personal rather than municipal approach to environmentalism. This personal connection with each piece, and its living organism, creates an ecological interaction with the wearer, a symbiotic relationship. Some pieces in the series are ‘ready-to-wear’, and take ideas from corporate fashion in the choice of materials and art deco styling.
Urban planning and city greening seek to improve the visual and air quality within our cities. Planting boxes, parks within the city, trees along lanes and leafy squares help to reduce the impact of the concrete jungle. A ‘green roof’, where a garden is planted on the roof of a building, is a traditional concept from Scandinavia. Green Roofs are popular in progressive American and European cities. They improve air quality, increase the amount of livable space, reduce the effect of urban heat island effect, provide a refuge for the building’s inhabitants, and also insulate the building. Green roof projects can be expensive and require specialist design. In some places like Chicago the council is looking at greening all of their buildings, sometimes with green roofs. Bio-accessories are an effort on the wearers behalf to green their own personal space. Greening cities is be the responsibility of the government, council houses by the local council, and Bio-accessories makes greening personal on a much more direct level. The Nosegay provides immediate protection against odious laneway smells.
Through creating a local greened environment, the wearer also becomes one half of a symbiotic relationship. In the Coronet, the plant helps the wearer to green their outlook, improve their air quality, and keep their space private. In return, the wearer cares for the plant, gives it sunlight and food and waters it when necessary. They invest in a greener outlook, and also share a space with this organism, where the benefit is to both parties. The Perch accessory provides a resting place for a small bird, and in return the wearer may receive birdsong to brighten their aural experience.
Bio accessories can be divided in two in a similar way to modern fashion industry. Some of the pieces represent a conceptual ‘haute couture’ approach – the Perch, Coronet, Corsage and Nosegay. These are delicate and made for a specific purpose. In addition, the brooches and tie-pins represent a ‘pret-a-porter’ or ready to wear. These accessories do not have a specific purpose, yet fit with the styling, materials and ideas of the rest of the series. The materials and styling join the pieces as one set. Bio-accessories uses veneer, pinstripe and glass vials. The veneer is mostly Pearwood, which is favored for high end carving and furniture; the pinstripe suiting references business wear; while the glass vials are used to hygienically house the organisms.
The design of the accessories re-appropriates the materials in an unusual way. Veneer is laminated and laser cut from CAD models to give accurate measurements; suiting, usually seen in large sheets is used in miniature frills and cuffs; and scientific vials are given new life with succulents – which are typically grown in pots or garden beds. Bio accessories are fashioned in similar style to some modernism (especially with reference to the industrial method of crafting them); and to ornamental and stylist elements commonly seen in Art Deco.
Through examining the political, personal-ecological and fashionable possibilities of wearable craft – Bio-accessories comments on how craft and design could conceptually aid a wearer in a city living context.