Phoebe Bunting is decked out in a jumpsuit that aims to transform her into a walking, talking water dispenser. The costume is inspired by spaceflight and is entirely speculative.
"This material doesn't exist yet, but the concept is to make sweat and moisture from your body turn into pure drinking water," Kamilla Sadol, a fashion student at Fashion Design Akademiet in Copenhagen and the designer of the outfit, told me.
She explained that the conceptual smart fabrics absorb human sweat, which is purified in tubes dispersed throughout the lining of the fabric. These all lead to a small water-collecting pouch at the back of the jumpsuit.
Bunting's outfit was just one of many speculative designs showcased this week at the London Science Museum's fashion show "Couture in Orbit." To explore what might be possible in the future, the European Space Agency (ESA) partnered with nine textile and tech companies and funded five European fashion schools to concoct some futuristic, spaceflight-inspired garb.
Thirty-five museum staffers then hit the catwalk. The designs included everything from a woman clad in a voluminous ruffle skirt to a man in sky blue with one hand enclosed in what looked like a gigantic light bulb.
"A lot of what we do is hard to explain and we want to increase interest in space—and as everyone wears clothes, we came up with the idea of a fashion show," Rosita Suenson, ESA's communication manager, told me. She said that the aim was to focus on sustainable clothing that both looked good and had a function.
"The objective wasn't to have a Star Trek or Star Wars-like fashion show," she added.
Sadol said that her water-recycling jumpsuit idea was part-inspired by Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen's space mission to recycle urine into drinking water, and by the fact that, on average, the human body produced up to 450 litres of sweat each year.
Sadol's concept comprised a mashup of both normal fabric and small portions of materials provided by ESA. For example, she made the collar section of the jumpsuit out of a flexible sheet of transparent material, which ESA uses in its satellites.
Sadol said she hoped that the technologies applied to future space garb could find practical applications here on Earth. She cited hot countries with water shortages as an Earth-bound place where these hypothetical clothes could be worn.Providing multifunctional clothes for regular people back on Earth was a concept shared by students from the Politecnico di Milano in Italy. Their spiral-designed clothes with embedded pouches aimed to revaluate fast food culture. Their clothes drew inspiration from ESA's cooling technology, where temperatures stay the same even when an object is in a hot or cold environment.
"Our project 'Food Keeper' explores the idea of having food and water with us all the time," Alice Laurentin, a fashion student from the Politecnico di Milano, told me. Working with fellow student Isabel Cristina Martinez Wilches, Laurentin wants the clothes of the future to exploit ESA's cooling tech so that the mini pouches they come with allow small packages of food and water to be at a constant temperature at all times when they're close to the human body.
While all of the wacky clothes on show at the fashion show were speculative, it's comforting to think that when we do turn to Mars, we won't all have to look like Michelin men.