A "Couture in Orbit" runway look.


IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY: The European Space Agency and the Science Museum of London recruited students from five European design schools to create Space Age-inspired clothes for its “Couture in Orbit” project.

True to the respective nationalities of the ESA’s five astronauts who are in the midst of a two-year project at the International Space Station, the ESA selected schools in the U.K., France, Italy, Denmark and Germany. Their challenge was to develop practical and desirable clothing that used high-tech features. Fashion Design Akademiet in Denmark, the Politecnico di Milan in Italy, Ravensbourne in the U.K., and ESMOD in France and Germany were the participating schools.

The ESA’s Rosita Suenson said they were asked to use wearable technology, reflective material for search-and rescue-benefits, absorbent fabrics that would remove excess moisture, and tracking devices. Each was assigned a specific area — technology, environment, innovation, health and nutrition — and were required to keep in mind how their designs would interplay with daily life. Their intergalactic-inspired creations were recently shown in a fashion show at the Science Museum in London. A panel of judges greenlighted 15 designs from each school to be created.

ESA space-certified textiles were provided to the students from such companies as Bionic Yarn and Sympatex. The former’s HLX, DPX and FLX yarns, for example, are made from plastics recovered from the ocean shorelines in developing countries. (Bionic Yarn’s partners include G-Star Raw.)

“Couture in Orbit” sponsors included the American company 37.5. Named for the optimal human body core temperature (in Celsius) and the optimal humidity level (by percentage), 37.5 Technology captures and releases moisture vapor using the body’s infrared energy to optimize the wearer’s body temperature. Executives at 37.5 Technology and other sponsors offered the students technical advice. Another sponsor, iNanoEnergy of Portugal, specializes in custom-made flexible generators that convert energy into electricity. Body heat and movement can charge sensors and eventually smartphones, according to iNanoEnergy.

Decades after Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges first borrowed from Space Age designs, the fashion and space industries continue to influence each other. ESA innovations were recently adopted for thermal underwear manufactured by Björn Borg’s company. And the motorcycle clothing maker Dainese customized ESA’s Skinsuit to help alleviate astronaut back problems.

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