Lauren Bowker wants to put a spell on you. First, she conjured Fire, a collection of flamelike hair dye that changes colour as the temperature rises and drops, then she crafted Hathor, a range of beauty products that mimic your skin’s natural fluctuation - a rouge that intensifies as you blush, a spray which forms freckles in sunlight. Now the alchemist and occultist is back with a brand new trick: Venus, an astral hair dye formulated with millions of reflective particles that turn bright silver when exposed to a flash of the camera.
"The inspiration of making the colour highly reflective came from the reflective Venusian atmosphere surrounding the planet Venus," says Lauren. "These clouds are observed by us on earth using a digital spectroscope to capture, split and filter physical light from space enabling physicists to paint a picture of a planet millions of miles away."
Back on earth, the dye acts as a playful take on our global obsession with digital filters, augmented and virtual reality and the notion of online versus offline identities. As we increasingly play out our lives online, Lauren has created a magical product that exists fleetingly under the bright lights of a camera.
"For me, it's what lies in the invisible that’s most interesting, the things we don't see or share. I don't have Snapchat and I'm not a big Instagrammer, I actually find the idea of people living their lives through a lens intimidating. Thinking you have to capture every moment gives me anxiety and I find it kind of sad that people today are so obsessed with capturing the moment in their clouds instead of in their brains. I was at a gig a few months ago with my friend Hannah and while we fan girl at the side I noticed so many people around us watching the gig through their screens, not through their eyes, so I thought it would be cool to explore the idea of a colour that only exists when viewed through a screen. Lying dormant in the physical and alive in the digital."
The dye is the latest creation from The Unseen, a material exploration house founded by Lauren in 2012 as part of an ongoing investigation into the hidden matter that surrounds us. Inspired by her childhood fascination with all things witchy, Lauren’s revolutionary colour-change compounds, developed while studying at Manchester School of Art, transcend the worlds of fashion, science, beauty, sport, healthcare, and environmentalism. In 2017, she created a T-shirt that could detect climate change, changing colour in accordance with water pollution. She’s also created a skull cap that changed colour in response to brain activity; a jacket that shifts from yellow to black, according to pollution levels; silk scarves that, when draped around the body, form intricate patterns of colour in response to motion. It’s magic for the 21st century.