If fashion were based on building blocks…
- Elizabeth Esponnette
Biology has no landfill; no ‘new’ or ‘used’; no separation between trash, recycling, and compost; no virgin or post-consumer (material); no division between what is good and bad.
Instead, the greater biological system is made up of elemental pieces that are infinitely usable. The building blocks were designed into this system to be broken down when the lifetime of the object they comprise is over, taking on new adventures while retaining their value.
The key to this relevance is that the building blocks are useful both in isolation and in combination with others. These building blocks themselves are simple and elemental, boiled down to only what is necessary for a self-sustaining object. When combined with others, these building blocks become impossibly complex, and inspire greater possibility. Biology is a genius in both its diversity and in its efficiency, capable of creating incredibly complex entities using the simplest components.
A biological product is never finished. It constantly reacts, mends, grows, decays, and adapts. It thrives in its fluctuations. A leaf on a tree can react by recombining its constituent parts to release toxins when being eaten by an insect. A starfish can mend by focusing its growing energy on replacing a lost leg. Human bone can grow and strengthen when put under pressure. A bird can decay, giving its accumulated nutrients back to the biological system when deceased. A dog can adapt by shedding its fur in the summer to keep from overheating. These are things that happen naturally because of growth and decay systems in biology: processes that build on and subtract from products using these building blocks, making use of the finite matter of our biosphere. This continuous nutrient cycle efficiently adds when needed and subtracts when unnecessary.
By contrast, man-made products are disadvantaged: they are typically permanently damaged when broken, designed before even being built, not adjustable, and not designed with decay in mind. A fashion product is one complex entity that cannot be broken into useful subunits, nor recombined with other simple building blocks. The products cannot adapt, nor repair flaws. A tiny bit of damage to a garment, like a hole, becomes a permanent scar. Humans create products that are intentionally fully designed and subsequently fully made. This sequential design and construction process in man-made production is limiting.
The simultaneous design and construction process in nature’s production allow things to form without a predetermined plan, responding to various stimuli from the environment as needed. This new design is a modular fabrication system that has been inspired by growth processes, and it allows for a multitude of structures. It has the ability to design, construct, and edit indefinitely and simultaneously. Its pieces are never finished and also never unfinished: they are added to and taken from without fatal consequence, always either growing or decaying with a total system net zero. In theory, these building blocks are infinitely reusable just like nature’s modular units, from barnacles to atoms. The pieces can exist in isolation, they are never waste.