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Beautiful biochem dress highlights deep connection between science and design

Thursday 6 June 2019 1:19pm

Emma Muir standing outside the clocktower in her graduation gown and black and white embroidered dress

Emma Muir graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry in May, wearing a beautiful gown that she painstakingly hand-embroidered herself.

An unsuccessful search for a biochemistry-themed dress for her graduation drove her to embellish a dress she already owned, adding little alpha-beta bead motifs by hand during a week-long binge session of the OC.

Growing up in Gisborne, Emma always loved clothes, sewing and science.

“Two of the top memories of my childhood would definitely be my Dad letting me use his microscope to look at my split ends, and Mum taking us to Napier to go to [the children’s clothing shop] Pumpkin Patch, quite literally the main event each time we went.” she remembers.

In light of that, her decision to take the unusual next career step of studying fashion design is maybe not surprising - and her two passions of science and fashion are not as unrelated as you first might think.

Emma has found that her biochemistry degree has given her many skills that can be applied to her design study, in particular, how to thoroughly research a topic, work methodically through a process, and present results clearly.

“Creating my first collection for my fashion degree, it was funny how familiar the process felt - researching an idea or concept, developing an aim and methods from this, documenting the development of my collection, reflecting and improving on the results, and presenting the final design and explaining the concepts and research behind them to an audience.”

Close up view of beaded motifs on Emma Muir's dress

Her understanding of science has also been a great advantage for understanding what textiles are made from and how they are processed.

“Being able to understand why the chemical composition of something may cause it to behave a certain way gives you a far better insight when it comes to what materials are suitable for what purposes.”

In the future, Emma would like to start her own fashion label producing sustainable clothes from recycled materials. She is particularly interested in designing in a way that uses her science background towards her goal of sustainability.

“I would absolutely jump at that! Other than that I'm just enjoying learning what I can right now, and I'll see where the future takes me.”