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Interactive Olfactory Surfaces: The Wellness Collection: A Science Fashion Story




"Physics Is A Function Of Size. . . "


The aim of the research was to create a textile emotional support system and new interactive communication system by 're-cabling' fabrics for releasing fragrances in 21st-century fashion design. A new development, taking inspiration from biology, conjures up Multi-Sensorial Fabrics - based around the sense of smell. Using the theory that 'Smell Is Nanotechnology' and that biology works by nano-machines, biological actions can be miniaturized (such as 'sensing' in the animal world) to create an integrated system called THE WELLNESS COLLECTION.


Fragrances (and eventually medication, monitoring devices, and digital information) will be actively 'pulsed' electronically through a cabling device system that will 'mimic' the human senses and in particular the scent glands in our bodies and be literally incorporated into the fabric structure. Technology will, therefore, be integrated into fabrics and carried in invisible clothing. The system also acts as a new vehicle for designer perfumes and healing aromas, reducing the application of alcohol on skin and microencapsulation.

Traditional textile design concerns passive issues relating to colour and texture (and performance purposes to a certain degree). However, this research concentrates on a more active approach to textile design, introducing the living active garment as a second skin. The aim is to combine a number of contrasting areas from the Arts and Sciences. For example - Perfumery. Fashion Designs. Textile & Fibre Technologies. Space Age Clothing. Biosensing Techniques. 'Micro Tube' Technology. Fluid Control. 'Smart intelligence'. Human Biology & Psychology. Human Skin, Circulation & Nervous Systems. Medical Textiles. Controlled Drug Delivery Systems. Alternative Therapies. Nanotechnology. Although some might consider this project to be high risk, it is a general fact that creative and 'novel' research originates from multidisciplinary fields. Emphasis on this important fact must be acknowledged throughout the thought process of the following project which is documented as a thorough ‘library’ of valuable research information. The Science Fashion approach may, therefore, seem very futuristic, but as the technology itself reduces in size such an approach becomes increasingly realistic.


The idea for this Ph.D. stemmed from a personal desire to create multi-sensory textiles as a result of being diagnosed with a mood disorder in 1993. After a career in the fashion industry, the idea was to design "smart" sensory-textiles and clothes that offered an "empowering emotional support system"  inspired by NASA's Liquid Cooling Suit.  The research was also informed by volunteering as a 'Buddy' for the Terrence Higgins Trust for people living with HIV & AIDS (1992-1993). 

Various QUOTES  from fashion designers, writers, botanists, computer engineers, pharma companies, perfumers, philosophers, and scientists helped inform the Ph.D. research process - along with references to fiction ("Perfume - A Story of a Murderer" by Patrick Suskind), science-fiction authors (Aldous Huxley, J.G.Ballard, etc.,) and the works of Biologist, Rupert Sheldrake on psychology (the senses) and animal behavior


The Ph.D. won 1st prize at the RCA DesigAge Competition (1997).

The thesis can be found here and at the British Library (EThOS)


Professor John Miles (Supervisor)

Dr. Tom (Malcolm) Taylor (Supervisor)

Dr. George Dodd (Advisor)

Professor Gillian Crampton-Smith - Royal College of Art

Professor Andreas Manz - Imperial College 

Dr. Paul Ewing - Imperial College 

Roger Coleman - Royal College of Art

Professor Dan Fern - Royal College of Art

Spencer Childs - Royal College of Art

Professor Ian Shanks - Unilever R&D

Professor Chris Lowe - University of Cambridge

Brian Eno

Al Globus - NASA

Marc Weiser - Ubiquitous Computing Xerox Parc USA

Ralph Merkle - Parc Xerox USA

Prof Roz Picard -Ralph Merkle MIT Media Lab

Professor Michael Hurley - MIT Media Lab

Professor Anthony Turner - Cranfield University

Dan O'Sullivan - New York University

Sue Mossman - The Science Museum London

Paul. W. Green - Nanothinc

John Frazer - Architecture Association London

Chris Chapman - Brunel University

Professor Brian Culshaw - Strathclyde University

Dr Richard Scott - Defence Clothing & Textiles Agency

Dr Aran Puri - The Body Shop

John Ayres - Givaudan (UK)

Dale Russell

Dr Catherine Harper

International Flavours & Fragrances

Joseph Hess - Microflow Engineering

Marks & Spencers

Drapers Record

Royal College of Art

Phd Graduation film, 1997. 

Thesis title:  'Interactive Olfactory Surfaces - A Science Fashion Story'  

(Printed Textiles 1997)


Sponsored by IFF and RCA School of Computer-Related Design.

DesignAge (RCA) - first prize.


A film by Jenny Tillotson and Joanne Woodward
Sound by Phil Hartley
Voice-over by Sophie Vaughan


With thanks to:
Brian Eno
Dr Ralph Merkle (Park Xerox)

Marc Weiser  (Ubiquitous Computing)

DesignAge (Royal College of Art)

Imperial College of Science, Technology & Medicine

BBC Natural History Unit Library

Oxford University Zoology Dept

Oxford Scientific Films
Dr. George Dodd
Prof Gillian Crampton-Smith (Royal College of Art)
Prof John Miles (Royal College of Art)

Dr Malcolm (Tom) Taylor

Marc Rolland

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