Digitized Fashion Restaurant

Student | Elena Zhou
Faculty | Yoon Chang
School of Design, Undergraduate Fashion Design

With the increase in the conscious awareness and importance of a circular economy, more and more brands are focusing their businesses on sustainable fashion. Recently, eco-friendly fabric has become a hot topic. However, most of these materials are expensive and not readily accessible. During this pandemic time, online shopping plays a vital role in our day-to-day life due to social distancing rules. Although advanced technology has presented us with many virtual apps, it is still difficult to feel the textures and appreciate the construction of clothing and fabrics. Therefore, I decided to create an edible fabric collection that is fun and easy to make and dispose of responsibly.

Images of edible fabrics made from natural fruit and vegetable slices. Each fabric has two different feelings: One side, the original texture of the material; The other side is soft and smooth like leather. The entire fabric piece is sew-ready and waterproof.
Images: 1. Apple 2. Squash 3. Cucumber

The edible fabric is inspired by the social distancing period of the Covid-19 Pandemic. When people go shopping online, it is hard to distinguish if the product we see exists in real life or only on the website. By creating a collection where there are no boundaries separating food and fashion, FOOD = FABRIC. What people wear can now be considered food to be eaten. Every piece represents the decisions people make on food, fashion, and the environment. Even though the materials look fragile and delicate in the photo, the developed food fabric is strong enough for sewing and making into garments.

Experimental process of making edible fabric
By researching cooking and baking methods and natural fabric, I combined several techniques to create this collection. Edible fiber is different from traditional plant-based fabric, such as cotton, linen and bamboo.

My goal is to create a collection that is not harmful to the environment, but different from traditional “organic” fabric. The high cost of raw materials which in turn raises the price of most finished sustainable goods, opens our eyes to the fact that the food we eat provides an obvious advantage! First, I began the process using the hand making techniques of paper. Then I used the food sculpture method typically used to create fondant cake to help transfer the paper into a stable and waterproof state. In order to make the fabric colorful, I used different food powders to naturally dye the fabric.

Display of Fashion Food Fabric
Shelves display the different vegetables and fruits that were explored to create edible fabric. Model wears a conceptual design of collaged images of how food can be worn as clothes.

This fabric collection is designed considering different weights, tastes and scale for multipurpose use. People can wear it as clothing, but also conveniently carry it in their bags (as plates or food wrap) or even use it as an accessory. It is soft, light and pliable to be on the body. Believe it or not, it can also be washed and reused or at its life’s end use be discarded in the compost (back to the earth from where it came).

How to use edible fabric
Edible fabrics can be flexible and bounce right back as shown in the images from flat to folded in hand

The fabric can be used in multiple ways. With the characteristics of being edible, washable, disposable and soft, the fabric can be used for garments, but also used as plate and food wrap. I tested how the fabric felt in hand after giving different softening treatments to each fabric. I used a Chinese Nation Hezhe’s traditional leather method and the food sculpture recipe for fondant cake to process them. Also the fibrous nature of the fruit or vegetable creates unique textures. Depending on how thin or thick you slice the raw food, the fabric can be translucent or opaque.

Apple Fabric process
Apple slice fabric can be multi purposeful. On this page you can see it in its many possible forms: plate, food and garment.

Leaving the skin of the apple on creates another texture and color within the final product. After going through the cooking and many processes of turning the slices into the fabric, I was able to consider how I can use them in clothes or as accessories. First I studied how the fabric feels and thought about the possible shapes I could make from them. I took pictures and then replicated similar shapes on the mannequin using paper to design. I also loved the idea of using a peeled apple and sketched ideas.

Cucumber Fabric Process
Cucumber slices can create a more linear stripe effect when made into fabric. Also note how I considered placing them in multiple directions to create fabric with pattern, combining linear and organic shapes within a possible finished fabric.

The cucumber fabric was interesting as I was able to appreciate the transparent quality of the cucumber inside with the hard deep green lines of the skin. This facilitated the process of layering them to create a lettuce-type edge or lay them side by side to create a more basic striped fabric. I really loved the idea that I could manipulate it to create many different patterns that were organic in line or combined. The length of the cucumber also created a wider finished fabric which allowed me to design with more flexibility and the colors were rich.