A witch has designed a t-shirt that senses climate change

The latest beautiful invention from THEUNSEEN is clothing that changes its colour in accordance with water pollution – and you can make one yourself at home

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The Unseen Explorer / Jacob Chabeaux

Today is World Environment Day, which falls less than a week after Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Accord, the global agreement signed by nearly every country in the world that lays out a framework for adopting clean energy and phasing out fossil fuels. Republicans might say things like “God will take care of climate change”, but he won’t – we need to wake up.

That’s why founder of THEUNSEEN and modern alchemist Lauren Bowker (remember the witch who made the world’s first colour change hair dye?) has joined forces with Lost Explorer, founded by David de Rothschild, for a project called Water, a stunning way to understand the effects of water pollution through fashion, with imagery made by Jacob Chabeaux and commissioned by Dazed.

“80 per cent of the worlds waste water is put back into the environment untreated and that figure is growing,” says Bowker. “The brain and body are made from 73 per cent water and 71 per cent of the surface of the planet is covered in the stuff!” Climate change is something that we all – except maybe Donald Trump – know is happening, but information around it can often be hard to decipher.

Bowker sees Water – and fashion – as “a great platform of communicating the more complex issues to the world in simple way. T-shirts have always been used as billboards in their own way, from band t-shirts, to political slogan. Trump just pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement which was pretty shocking, but will people understand and read into it? Maybe not, not everyone understands politics, me especially! But if I see a t-shirt in front of me change colour when a car goes past or when the water is too acidic for frogs to live in then that I’ll understand.”

So, this is how it works, according to THEUNSEEN and The Lost Explorer. “We consulted nature by borrowing an ancient pH indication potion extracted from the red cabbage. Through a simple natural dyeing process easily replicated at home, we applied the resulting cabbage dye to a Lost Explorer cotton and hemp t-shirt to visualise the concentrations of pollution in the water around us through a simple yet impactful colour change. PH is an innate property of water, one that defines the limits within which life can and can’t thrive.

“The t-shirt starts its life purple to indicate the purest form of neutral water. When the t-shirt comes into contact with non-neutral water, the pH level of that water is then revealed through the colour of the garment, forming colour shifts through the pH scale from Alkaline Green to Acidic Red. This enables the wearer to visualise the level of pollution in the water they are being exposed to.” Check it out in the above video.

If you’re confused by the impact that differing levels of PH in water has on the environment, then look at this Alkaline - Acidic scale that lays out the damage it can do to coral reefs, fish and our skin.

David de Rothschild believes that in order to understand climate change we need to embrace climate change, not fear it. “I think that the most pressing thing that needs to happen in relation to the planet is to drop our fear of nature,” he says. “We’re living in this time when most of our understanding of it relates to some mega storm or someone being eaten by a shark. So we’re becoming more intimidated and disconnected from nature. But what about that other feeling it can give us, of wonder and awe?

Bowker also believe that science is open to all of us, and anyone can become a modern alchemist slash witch - all it takes is practice and surrounding yourself with inspirational people. “Alchemy is everywhere, it isn’t just about mixing potions and lighting some sage or getting runes tattooed on your fingers,” she says. “It’s about noticing the hidden meanings in life and making them accessible to others beyond your self. Whether that’s in design, science or just basic human communication. Always try to hang with good people that inspire you, if you’re the cleverest person in the room then you’re in the wrong room mate. The biggest advice I can give anyone is to see beyond what’s in front of them, stay focussed and practice… the first thing you create design, make or see is always going to be shit and that’s OK!”

If you want to make your own Water t-shirt, grab a red cabbage and watch Bowker explain in this “How To” video.

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