Artist Catherine Sarah Young designs imaginative solutions for a bleak future. For example, take the aqua tutu (shown above), designed to keep the wearer afloat in a flash flood. Deflated, it's a colorful skirt. Inflated, it could keep you alive, like an innertube.
The aqua tutu is included in Young's collection of Climate Change Couture, part of a larger endeavor called The Apocalypse Project. Based on climate trends, Young imagines a world where global warming has made life a lot more difficult. Each garment is pared with a written vignette that illustrates its potential use. She began the project during a 2013 Art Science Residency Programme in partnership with the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, Tembusu College National University of Singapore and the Singapore-ETH Centre's Future Cities Laboratory.
None of the garments are intended for real production, but instead Young hopes the project will create more dialogue about climate change. For example, the Thermoreflector is designed to deflect heat away from the body in an ultra-hot urban environment of the future, with shield-like sleeves that protect the wearer's face.
"I try to see what's a dystopian scenario that can happen if we don't do something about it," said Young. "Given this hypothetical future scenario, I design the garment and then think about who might be able to use it, and then write the story. For me, the combination of the story and the garment is important so that the viewer can get the full picture."
Although the garments are based on very real climate trends, she says she has been influenced by dystopian science fiction writers like Margaret Atwood and Aldous Huxley. "Right now, I'm reading I am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki," she said. "I don't intentionally reference any of these in the project, but I'm sure they have influenced me somehow."
Other garments in the Climate Change Couture collection include trash dresses, for a time when other materials are impossibly rare and expensive, and a personal climate-control device called "The Bubble."
"The idea of the project is to see these potential futures so that we can be inspired to do something about the present," said Young. "I don't want to have an environmental apocalypse, but if we are not mindful of what we do, we might end up there."