Seeing the unseen

A range of clothing designed by a self-styled ‘textile alchemist’ has the potential to warn the wearer of a number of environmental issues.

The clothing, by designer Lauren Bowker, is infused with a special ink that responds to changes in temperature, UV light, friction – and most recently, levels of the poisonous gas carbon monoxide.

This last factor is an interesting novelty as it combines artist expression with a highly relevant, practical tool.

Developed by Bowker’s studio, The Unseen, the styled clothes make use of palladium chloride for chemical sensitivity. This red-brown molecule is commonly used in catalytic converters, which reduce car emissions by reacting with exhaust gases.

The palladium chloride is broken down into palladium, a rare earth mineral that can be reused, while turning the carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide.

This reversible process allows for clothing that changes colour, leading to a range of designs with colour change potential. The clothing specifically designed for the carbon gas test changes from yellow to black as pollution increases, and back to yellow as conditions improve.

Other stimuli that the designer’s inks respond to are sound, moisture, friction and various chemicals. The inks are customised to change colour, across the CMYK or RGB scales.

‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’, so reads a well-known law of science fiction. In combining magical aspects with high-tech, The Unseen’s clothing range blurs the lines between technology and magic in impressive style.

Images and info via the designer’s website.


  1. Autumn Godwin says:

    Now, for wallcovering options 😉