Arctic sea ice makes its debut as wearable art during New York Fashion Week on Sept. 9.
The Sea Ice Collection promotes sustainable “slow fashion” in an unexpected collaboration between scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, artists and fashion designers.
“We created the Sea Ice Collection to inspire collective action and shift the conversation about climate change away from environmental doomism towards the beauty of all there is still left to save,” said artist and filmmaker Amy Lauren and designer Corentin Daudigny in a joint statement.
The garments in the runway show are patterned after cross sections of sea ice collected by scientist Marc Oggier during an epic research expedition to the central Arctic Ocean in 2019.
“I never expected my work to appear on a fashion runway,” said Oggier, a postdoctoral fellow at the UAF International Arctic Research Center. “I love that it is being looked at in this new way.”
Like snowflakes, sea ice is made up of crystals. When examined under polarized light, their orientation and size create stunning kaleidoscopes of colors. These crystalline structures were printed on garments to tell the story of how sea ice grows and melts throughout the annual cycle.
While the ocean is freezing, its turbulent nature results in tiny ice crystals oriented in many directions. Once fully frozen, the ice keeps growing downward, forming large crystals oriented vertically.
The team hopes that the garment design and fabric patterns inspired by this process will help people engage with climate change in a new way. Made with ethical and sustainable practices, the sea ice line also combats “fast fashion” — the rapidly shifting and high-volume clothing industry.
The Sea Ice Collection emerged after a chance encounter in a French airport between Lauren and Daudigny. Lauren was creating a documentary film about climate change in the Arctic Ocean. The sea ice images on her laptop caught the attention of Daudigny, a Barcelona-based fashion designer.
“Corentin happened to see me working on IARC’s sea ice cross sections and was open and curious enough to stop and ask me about it,” said Lauren. “A passing conversation turned into a unique retail expansion plan to overcome the challenges that inhibit businesses from scaling sustainably.”
Lauren has created several films about scientific expeditions in the Arctic. She first met Oggier on the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate. She then joined him on the 2021 Nansen and Amundsen Basins Observational System expedition. The resultant “Arctic Halocline” documentary provides the cinematic backdrop to Saturday’s fashion show.
“Arctic Halocline” documents the destabilization of a protective water layer that once kept ocean heat from penetrating and melting sea ice. The film culminates by describing how the 2022 Ukraine invasion ended decades of scientific collaboration on NABOS between the United States and Russia.
“Peace is the cornerstone to effectively tackle the climate crisis. We need peace in order to do science. We need science in order to tackle the climate crisis,” said Lauren and Daudigny. “We are telling this story through fashion, merging climate science and sustainable practices in fashion education.”
“Arctic Halocline” won the best virtual reality film award at the 360º Film Camp Nou at Barcelona Planet Film Festival this year. It has been accepted at both the International Ocean Film Festival and the New Media Film Festival.
Oggier’s research and the NABOS expedition were funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.