Revealing the invisible through color is the specialty of The Unseen. The British company’s latest creation is a hair dye that reacts to ambient temperature… or to your mood.
Lauren Bowker is a material alchemist. Trained in chemical science before finding her vocation in textiles, she is indifferent to all the hype surrounding the rising trend of wearables. In fact, she believes that the fashion of the future will look exactly the same as it does today, except that technology will be seamlessly and invisibly integrated. Bowker’s own brand of material alchemy seeks to make the invisible visible through color.
Hence the name of her London-based company, The Unseen, founded in February 2014 with a couple of longtime girlfriends, each feeling like an outsider to the mainstream industries. Now with a multidisciplinary team of a dozen like-minded mavericks, The Unseen develops reactive inks that change color according to certain parameters (temperature, humidity, infrared and UV rays, carbon and CO2, friction and pressure, soundwaves, brainwaves, digital signals…), mainly for luxury industries, and always under a shroud of mystery and magic.
The Unseen, presentation:
Their latest creation, Fire, revealed in February at London Fashion Week, is a series of thermochromic inks that react to ambient or body temperature: black that blushes from yellow to orange to crimson when the temperature rises above 30°C; white that becomes blue when the temperature drops below 15°C; sliver that fades to a pastel pink; red that turns green then blue… We can already imagine ourselves as an anime character with a polychromatic hairstyle that perfectly reflects our constantly changing states of mind and environments…
The chemistry of this reversible reaction consists of manipulating complex carbon-based molecules, so that above a certain temperature, “one of the molecule’s forms is more stable than the other, and so a reaction takes place producing a molecule with a slightly different absorption of light, and thus a different color”. The alchemy that consists of replacing and reducing the usually toxic ingredients of the recipe, however, is secret.
Fire, teaser trailer by The Unseen:
In the budding age of Fab 4.0, where, according to the father of fablabs Neil Gershenfeld, we can bypass machines to program materials directly, The Unseen proudly guards the secrets of its Magick line… timeless creations, often in collaboration with exclusive brands, from haute couture to precious stones, space suits and Formula 1. These upscale design objects are also what distinguish The Unseen’s inventions from past and passing trends, such as the mood ring or the hypercolor t-shirt, and even from high-tech gadgets like Inupathy.
Chief alchemist Lauren Bowker always appears in public dressed entirely in black, from her round hat to her gothic shoes. What began as a theatrical manifestation to observe the funeral of her first consulting business has become her unique brand image—an ongoing performance in the alchemy of materials and colors.
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Despite her success, she never loses sight of her original dream to create things to do good, designs that visibly and significantly help people and improve lives. It’s a dream she can’t forget after her studies were interrupted a decade ago by an 18-month hospital stay with a broken back. Today, her ambition to apply her creations in the health and environmental fields is very much alive and well.
Pollution absorbent jacket
Her first multi-awarded project from 2014, PdCl2, was a yellow ink that blackened in the presence of carbon emissions, applied to create a “pollution absorbent jacket”. While the jacket may not indicate pollution levels with the same precision as a measuring instrument, it very clearly displays the infiltration of harmful elements in our immediate environment on an organic piece of clothing that requires no electronics.
Eighth Sense, a prototype developed in 2015, is a garment whose hundreds of hand-painted “fins” change hue to represent the wearer’s “aura”, or electromagnetic energy, as translated by EEG (electroencephalography) signals. Bowker hopes that one day this technology can be used to monitor pain levels or anxiety in patients.
Who knows what the Fire hair dye will contribute to our datachromatic future?