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Photography courtesy of PHNX

EXCLUSIVE: PHNX for Peachoo + Krejberg Womenswear A/W12

Chromogenic textile designer Lauren Bowker tells us about those custom feather pieces...

I first met with Roy and Peachoo at Indigo, Premier Vision Paris last September. I was exhibiting my PHNX work upon graduating from my masters at the Royal College of Art and taking part in Texprint. Whilst I was demonstrating my colour change feathers to onlookers Roy and Peachoo had taken my card without me knowing! It was only in January when I received the call from Roy inviting me to Paris to talk about a collaboration for the show pieces that I was aware that they had seen me!

Roy and Peachoo loved the feeling my PHNX piece had about it, it was very mysterious and sinister and lucky for me totally up their street! With this in mind, myself and Roy spent an afternoon at their Paris studio thrashing out ideas, images, colour and shapes to inspire the three show pieces to be exhibited with the Peachoo + Krejberg collection.

As far as a brief goes, it was to simply continue creating three more creatures from the world in which the first PHNX came from. Roy gave me total creative leeway! And encouraged me to be as insane as I wanted to be. Which was awesome.

The labour that went into the pieces is indescribable – the first PHNX piece took around a year, creating the inks and manipulating them to do exactly what I wanted, then a further few months to lock down a design that would best suit it. The PHNX piece changes in response to its environment, through three colour stages from greys, to purples and then white, it is a story of evolution and will change colour in front of its viewers' eyes, constantly living its cycle of life. The Peachoo + Krejberg pieces however came together in three weeks! How I did it I have no idea – no sleep and a lifetime's supply of caffeine definitely helped. I had a lot of good interns and friends helping me out and pushing me on. Looking back it's pretty amazing to see that it came together so quickly. But I guess you can build a war in a day if needed...

I'm a chromogenic textile designer and even I sometimes get baffled what that actually is. But it sounds good and always shuts cocky know-it-alls up in bars so I go with it! Basically it just means I make things change colour. Whilst the majority of my known work is very theatrical and a little outgoing, the other side to my practice is actually very serious – I believe we should use textiles to do what design should really do: change lives. Why make just a pretty dress when you could make a pretty dress save your life? The theatrical pieces are just another outlet to use the same technology. I work very closely with some brilliant scientists, engineers and designers and together we create products for the future world. For example, the inks in the PHNX piece may look great changing colour but on the flipside I am working to use the same technology to pick up muscle tensions, letting athletes know if they are in danger of tearing a muscle, whilst also tweaking the inks into a product capable of sensing asthma attacks, changing colour to alert severity. Thus in theory saving the NHS millions of pounds! Another ink I have developed in my early career (and which kick started the whole science/textile thing) was my PdCL2 ink. This ink is capable of sensing carbon emissions and changing colours whilst it does. It has won several awards including a commendation from the Royal Society of Arts. Really I just wanted to make a cigarette change colour and once I'd worked out how to do that I thought 'hey why can't I make a dress do it?' I was never really expecting it to give me the platform to work in the many areas I do today – from catwalks to concrete and concept plane cabins. Everyday is different which is great.

Seeing the pieces show at Peachoo + Krejberg was pretty mind blowing, all I've ever really wanted to do is inspire people to view things differently! Having the faith of Roy and Peachoo and also of Karen from Dazed & Confused was the biggest compliment I could ever ask for! It has been an amazing journey and hopefully just the beginning of more to come. But that's after I have a sleep and buy everyone who helped it become a reality a Jägerbomb...