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Committed to harnessing the creativity of global emerging fashion talent, Olivia Rubens joins MACHINE-A with her knitwear collection: Photosynthesize.

Photosynthesize is a collection that transforms garments into living organisms. Made with and sold exclusively at MACHINE-A, the collection is centralised on a focus on morality and communal bonding in the aftermath of the global pandemic.

Based between the UK and Canada, Rubens creates for every womxn battling through the obstacles of everyday life. After graduating from London College of Fashion in 2020 with an MA in Fashion Design Technology Womenswear, Rubens showed digitally at Helsinki Fashion Week later that year. It was here she debuted her first climate positive, photosynthesizing garment.

With MACHINE-A, the designer expands on her ingenious developments in bio design. Taking her cues from 18th century garments and Rococo excess, Rubens examines unforeseen consequences stemmed from the greed and ignorance of bygone generations, using waste and found objects to piece together a collection that finds beauty in the mundane.

Inspired by Kintsugi, Rubens fashions her collection through ethical alpaca, Tencel, organic wool and linen and GOTS organic cotton – married with vintage crochet lace tablecloths, old ceramic kitchenware, empty shampoo and household cleaner bottles. Upon closer inspection, you can see remnants of the past lives of these up-cycled materials, from barcodes to instruction stickers, each melted into hand-moulded trims.

The focal point to the collection is a series of green garments that are photosynthesis coated with Post Carbon Lab, giving each the qualities to live and breathe like plants. All of these pieces give off oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, and require indirect sunlight and regular misting to maintain their climate positivity.

In order to grow, plants absorb water, sunlight and carbon dioxide to create oxygen and energy in the form of sugar. But who’s to say the process of photosynthesis should be bound to what grows in the soil beneath our feet?

Knitted in Italy and sewn in the UK – with some pieces sculpted in Canada – Rubens worked with Manusa, a company in Pistoia, Italy which employs refugees and women from unfortunate circumstances, as well as Making For Change, an organisation which employs women both in and rehabilitating from prison. 

“Our overall goal for this project is to redefine the meaning of our relationships with our garments, and to empower people with individual agency in climate change solutions. By caring for these photosynthesising pieces like plants, and displaying them in homes like objects, we hope the nurturing nature of this relationship will strengthen bonds between people and their pieces, watching them transform and thrive over time, while sequestering carbon from the atmosphere” – Olivia Rubens, designer.  

“At MACHINE-A we always aim to support and showcase emerging designers that apart from their creative talent, their proposition to the future of our industry is such, that creates new ways for everyone to think, to be inspired and to bring positive change. Photosynthesize, a project by Olivia with the support of the Post Carbon Lab, is the scientific result of transforming garments to living organisms and how do we keep them alive in the environment we are in with our care. Is a project that elongates the life duration of a garment and offers us a better understanding of the fundamental circular relationship between the environment, us and our clothes” – Stavros Karelis, founder & buying director of MACHINE-A.


Photographer : Oscar Foster-Kane / @oscarfosterkane
Stylist : Laura Vartiainen / @lauravartiainen
Model :  Lan Di / @rantekiteki

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