Seaweed will save the world. Or at least that’s what the three young designers who have chosen it as the main material for clothes that transcend traditional and conventional use have set out to prove. Aside from totally random factors, such as gender and the fact that they’re all under 30, Scarlett Yang (Chinese), Charlotte McCurdy (from New York) and Roya Aghighi (Canadian-Iranian) all share the firm belief that for design to become a driving force in the pursuit of true sustainability, one has to start with the nub of the problem, in other words the exploration of new materials and processes that will lessen the environmental and social impact that the fashion industry, in particular but not exclusively, has on the environment. Thus their projects – a blend of bio-design, digital printing and 3D generative simulation – constitute the best response to the prevailing narrative of climate change as an insoluble problem.Scarlett Yang’s degree thesis at Central Saint Martins was called Decomposition of Materiality and Identities because as part of her collection, the stylist created a perfectly circular living system in which the garments grow, change shape over time and eventually, depending on environmental conditions, decompose. All this is thanks to a biodegradable fabric that she herself designed, using algae extracts and silk cocoon protein. This biomaterial changes shape and consistency in response to different levels of humidity and temperature, twisting and creasing as these conditions increase and stiffening when they decrease, and can decompose in water within 24 hours. “After studying fashion at Central Saint Martins, I realised how much material waste is generated within traditional fashion design project development,” she explained. “My garments display the beauty of natural life forms, aiming to challenge audiences’ perception of the concept of material life cycles.” Yang fabricated this new material in the laboratory, using water, colouring, algae extracts and sericin. She then used generative design to create her garment, harnessing computerised 3D modelling and digital fusion moulding thanks to 3D printing technology. The designer applied the biomaterial to the mould in liquid form and left it to solidify; she then applied the sericin – which has hydrophobic properties – to the parts she wanted to crease and shrink in response to environmental stimuli. The upshot is an extraordinary garment that looks as though it’s made of glass, but is extremely lightweight, fluid and iridescent. She used 3D modelling, animation and rendering to simulate the various transformations the material and the garment would both undergo under various conditions. “The potential lies in the research and development side of this design method for other business investigations,” she added.