Wearing the Colours of Climate Change: Data Takes the Form of Textiles

Dutch design studio Raw Color has created a collection called 'Temperature Textiles', which is embedded with climate-change data. The collection features blankets, scarves and socks knitted with infographics about either temperate change, sea-level rise or greenhouse gas emissions. Raw Color Co-Founder Christoph Brach talks about the idea.

Long Story, Cut Short
  • Raw Color is an Eindhoven-based studio founded by Christoph Brach and Daniera ter Haar. Raw Color works across design disciplines to materialise colour by blending graphic design, photography and product design.
  • The Temperature Textiles collection manifests data that shows the three main drivers and results of global warming: temperature change, sea level rise and emission.
Textiles, data and design/communication skills were spooled in at Raw Color to talk about climate change through knit fabrics.
Spool Tool Textiles, data and design/communication skills were spooled in at Raw Color to talk about climate change through knit fabrics. Raw Color

Communicating climate change through textiles. That's a novel idea. How did the idea come about? How did Raw Color fork out as the Temperature Textiles project?
We were regularly discussing climate change during lunch break with the team, as probably many people are doing this globally. During COVID-19, we had extra time due to cancelled or postponed projects. We were thinking, how can we contribute with our skills to this issue. Quickly we came to the conclusion to combine textiles with the data. And, use our design/communication skills.

How would you describe TT to an ordinary person? Would you call it a collection that includes items like scarves, blankets, etc, that depict temperature change, sea level rise and emission?
Yes, I think that is a description we use. Important to add is that the pieces' patterns are based on climate change data. We have chosen three fields--temperature, sea level and emissions, since we think these are very relevant. Also important to say that it is a collection of knits. We like the technique. In the case of flat knitting, we only utilise the yarns for the piece. This means the cloth size comes out of the machine as desired, unlike weaving in which you always need to use the whole width of the machine. Also, we could use 100% merino wool, that makes it a monotype material. If it ever needs to be recycled it can be done. Also, the knits create heavy pieces.

Coming to the items in the collection. Could you tell us how those are manufactured? What are the materials used, and where do you source them from? Where are those manufactured?
Besides merino wool, we had to use several materials for the double knit blankets. We also wanted to experiment with this technique. Unfortunately, biobased materials aren’t available yet at the producer for the filling yarns. The blankets have been developed locally at TextielLab in Tilburg and are produced on demand.

The Temperature Textiles include items like scarves,socks and blankets that depict temperature change, sea level rise and emission.
Temperature Textiles The Temperature Textiles include items like scarves, socks and blankets that depict temperature change, sea level rise and emission. Raw Color

What was the concept-to-execution process like? Could you share some details? How long did it take? Who all were involved? What about designers?
The development took roughly two years. We have done all design internally in the studio. Because we have worked with precise data and graphical pattern, each piece had to be designed on the pixel. This was an immense workload. To give an impression--the double knit pieces are roughly 5.5 million pixels per piece. Then the product developer at TextielLab programmed the machines and advised. They did a great job. We had the luxury to have roughly two weeks of development time, including sampling. Especially for the flat knits it took at least half a day to programme for one blanket and another 4-5 hours to knit one piece. Same credits for the product developers of Knitwearlab and Suva for scarves and socks.

How are you selling the products? Is it only on https://shop.rawcolor.nl/ Or are you also selling through brick and mortar stores? Could you share details?
The pieces are sold mainly through our webshop. Due to the small scale on demand production and production costs of the Netherlands, the pieces have quite a high price. We are still in negotiations with other parties that might be interested to sell parts of the collection. By the way, 10% of the sales go to the NGO Trees For All to plant new trees.

Blankets – Flat Knit

The pattern of the blankets are based on the four different emission scenario predictions that have been modelled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Each line represents one year that shows the temperature, sea level and emission rise from 2000 until 2100. Flatbed knitting machines are traditionally used for the production of pullovers and other outerwear garments. The technique of knitting reduces waste due to its made-to-measure ability. For the development of the flat knit blankets, the studio has teamed up with TextielLab.

Blankets – Double Knit

The diverse patterns and graphics of each blanket are based on several related data. For example, it shows that global warming varies in intensity depending on the region, or it shows the global carbon budget. Double knitting allows to create two layers of fabric at the same time. The layers can be interlocked together to create subtle height differences and embossing effects. For the development of the double knit blankets, the studio has teamed up with TextielLab.

Sea Level Socks

The horizontal lines visualise the predicted sea level rise, similar to a ruler that displays centimetres. The four highlighted lines represent the rise of 7 cm in 2020, 12cm in 2030, 17cm in 2040, 22 cm in 2050. These numbers are based on the most ideal emission scenario (RCP 2.8), according to the Paris Climate Agreement. The data is based on the climate report of the IPCC.

Temperature Scarf

The vertical pink lines represent the predicted surface temperature change in degrees Celsius of even years from 2000 until 2100. The orange surface indicates 0 – 4ºC. The diagram shows that the temperature might reach 4ºC by 2100 in case of the least ideal scenario (RCP 8.5) if no emission reduction is applied, according to Paris Climate Agreement. The data is based on the climate report of the IPCC.

The development of the Temperature Textiles took roughly two years as the team had to work with precise data and graphical pattern, and each piece had to be designed on the pixel.
Concept to Execution The development of the Temperature Textiles took roughly two years as the team had to work with precise data and graphical pattern, and each piece had to be designed on the pixel. Raw Color

The idea is to generate awareness. What has been the feedback that you have received so far? Do you have any metrics to go by?
We have created a website especially for the project. This to allow people from all over the world to experience the project. We thought this is important due to its global relevance. https://temperaturetextiles.nl Here we can see the number of visitors. The same with our social media account engagements.

For an awareness project to work out to its maximum, it needs to go out on a mass scale. Would you be planning that? How would you like to take it to "the next level?”
We have tried our best with our available channels. There has been significant interest from many design and culture-related websites to feature the project. We have organised an exhibition and the pieces are parts of other exhibitions e.g. during Berlin Fashion Week. That’s what we can do. We are open to suggestions :)

A website has been created to allow people from all over the world to experience the project.
Global relevance A website has been created to allow people from all over the world to experience the project. Raw Color

Besides merino wool, we had to use several materials for the double knit blankets. We also wanted to experiment with this technique. Unfortunately, there aren’t biobased materials available yet at the producer for the filling yarns. The blankets have been developed locally at TextielLab in Tilburg and are produced on demand.

Christoph Brach
Christoph Brach / Co-Founder / Raw Color

Subir Ghosh

SUBIR GHOSH is a Kolkata-based independent journalist-writer-researcher who writes about environment, corruption, crony capitalism, conflict, wildlife, and cinema. He is the author of one book, and has co-authored three with others. He writes, edits, reports and designs. He is also a professionally trained and qualified photographer.

 
 
 
  • Dated posted: 29 August 2022
  • Last modified: 29 August 2022