The Next Black

Aptly named, The Next Black, is a documentary highlighting the marriage of technology and fashion. It was released online yesterday.

The first part, about Lady Gaga's bubble-blowing dress and Adidas's body monitoring held no interest for me. But then, I got about halfway through to the part about Biocouture, a company I've been peripherally aware of. Founder Suzanne Lee discusses growing material from bacteria. This I found fascinating. Just think if we could grow a material as durable as leather without the use of plastics! The Biocouture website even provides a link to the recipe for growing your own.

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This is a method of producing fashion which is closer to brewing beer or making food than any traditional textile process. —Suzanne Lee

We go on to learn about a dry dye developed by the Yeh Group that uses super critical carbon dioxide and no water. Read more about the process here. This process could have dramatic effects on the industry's water, energy, and chemical usage. However, as far as I can tell, it is only used with synthetic fabrics like polyester. Personally, I prefer natural fabrics and vegetable dyes, though this is probably not realistic for the high-performance fabrics Yeh Group manufactures.

It's really exciting to see us connecting families and connecting people together through things that used to separate them. —Kyle Wiens, iFixit

I recently learned about, iFixit, a website that wants to build a repair manual for everything. The site is a hub where users can read guides, ask questions, and even purchase tools and parts needed to make repairs. It's a community for DIYers, fixers, and tinkerers. And how great is their manifesto?

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Patagonia is exemplified throughout The Next Black. Now, I love Patagonia's message, but I disagree with Vice President of Environmental Affairs, Rick Rideway's indictment of consumers on fast fashion. After discussing the low costs and faster turnaround in the industry, he states, "Maybe from having that capability you end up with fast fashion because that satisfies a desire and a need in people. If that's the case, then it's that desire from the consumer that's driving it and that's where the change has to come from." Where does he think that desire comes from? Every day, we are inundated with ads instructing us to buy more so that we can look better, feel better, be better. Capitalism instructs us to accumulate and it requires monumental effort to resist this message. People who don't conform to fashion standards are punished with denial of housing, work, and even relationships. Kids who don't have the newest cool thing might be teased or even bullied. Whole television shows glorify "makeovers" and the attention that follows them. Consumers can do their best to buy less or buy better, but the message remains the same. Patagonia's ad, "Don't buy this jacket" is a nice sentiment, but it didn't overthrow capitalism. It's the system, not the consumers, that need the makeover.

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If you've got an extra 45 minutes laying around, The Next Black is worth a watch. I've also recently added a media resource section with books and more videos to check out.


Watch The Next Black

Learn more about the project: or join the discussion with the hashtag #thenextblack.


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