AirDye at Parsons

Costello Tagliapietra Fall 2010 using AirDye® technology

Yesterday we saw a very exciting cross-school project announced: Parsons will be working with AirDye®, a company specializing in a new way of dyeing and printing fabrics of synthetic fiber. While the technology may initially seem like conventional sublimation printing, the level of sophistication and control that AirDye® brings into it is completely new – at a breathtaking level! Organza with each face in a different color? Got it. Translucent jersey with a print on one side, a contrast solid on the other? No problem. Gasps from faculty and students in the audience were constant throughout the AirDye® presentation. The project is open to AAS Fashion Marketing students and rising Seniors in BFA Fashion Design in the School of Fashion, BFA Photography students from the School of Art, Media and Technology and BBA Design and Management students from the School of Design Strategies. Anyone interested who missed the presentation yesterday should email for further information.

Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra (the latter studied painting at Parsons) of Costello Tagliapietra have worked with AirDye® for the past two seasons, to stunning effect. Just take a look at Spring 2010 and Fall 2010. The potential of the technology for more efficient ways of doing business is immense. A ‘double-faced’ (in terms of print or color) cloth can provide a collection with depth without the need to meet two fabric minimums. Simply put, the possibilities that AirDye® offers for intelligent fashion design – intelligent from economic, environmental and aesthetic points of view – are huge. The environmental benefits of AirDye® are fantastic in comparison to water-based dyeing – and they have been externally audited. A summary can be found on the AirDye® website and I’m happy to share the more detailed studies I have with interested students.

There is a common misconception that natural fibers are environmentally friendly while synthetic fibers are not. The real picture is much more complex, and one only needs to look at the environmental and social impacts of cotton production to realize the fallacy in this thinking. One thing that makes certain synthetics appealing is their potential for nearly indefinite reclamation and repolymerization into reusable fiber that is as high in quality as the original. This is not the case with natural fibers; recycling tends to shorten the fibers, and often virgin fiber needs to be blended in to maintain quality. Furthermore, synthetics tend to dry more quickly than natural fibers. It is often forgotten that for many a garment the most energy-intensive phase of its lifecycle is laundering and tumble drying; synthetics can help reduce this impact. What I would suggest synthetics are not appropriate for is poor quality fast fashion; after all their source material comes from the ever-diminishing reserves of crude oil. And sure, many synthetics can now be recycled (Patagonia’s Common Threads program is now into its sixth year) but recycling in itself is resource-intensive and recyclability should never be an excuse for bad design. Finally, Michele Wesen Bryant, Assistant Professor of Fashion Concepts, points out that polyester fabrics often still carry heavy metal residues such as antimony; a safe option in this respect would be to source Eco Intelligence® Polyester from Victor Innovatex.

This is an exciting new partnership and we look forward to sharing the results with you.