Blending nylon, rayon, and silk into the perfect hexagonal shape, a piece of fabric was
born that was equal parts strong and delicate in appearance. The perfect lightweight material for
ballerinas, this fabric became the height of fashion in the 1700’s. Named after a city in France,
designers began to adapt this material to fit ladies dresses, veils, and soon enough, lingerie. The
creation of a simple fiber into an ethereal and gossamer-like netting shows how quickly
innovation thrived when faced with the challenges of design. Tulle is just one example of
advancements within technology creating art where many simply see convention. Clothing, once
made to keep us warm and not much more, has become an expression of one’s entity; without
technology, we would not have the choice between cotton and silk, a dress or Levi jeans.
Through trial and error of thousands of years, innovation has led us to the very heights of
inventiveness, ingenuity, and creativity.
Let us look back further, to the 1500’s. Stumbling upon a large graphite mine in England,
citizens loved the strong, dark look of graphite on canvas but couldn’t keep the brittle mineral
from breaking off in their hands. Looking to the Greeks for inspiration, they managed to
combine the ingenuity of the stylus with their triumph in finding graphite, and created the first
crude version of a pencil. Carving a hole in a chunk of wood and inserting a shaven piece of the
rich mineral, ordinary inventors managed a stroke of genius that has managed to insert itself into
almost every classroom in the world: the pencil. Finding a strong, splinter-resistant wood in the
southern states of the United States, pencil manufacturers flocked to these cedar-heavy states in
hopes to make the best pencil available. Our technological growth only furthered the
advancements of the pencil, moving us from a pencil casing of a southern cedar found in
Tennessee to a western cedar found only in California. Eventually, we used our newfound love
of plastic to create the mechanical pencil; contrasting a roughly carved wooden shell for graphite
with a streamlined mechanical pencil, it is easy to see how technology changes the design of our
world over time.
Looking at our world now, I cannot envision the grandiose scenes that movies and novels
have predicted. In ten years, I do not see cars clogging up our airways, or jetpacks that can
propel us to work. I do not see beauty products that can truly take ten years off a face, or heels
that don’t hurt one’s feet after a day full of walking. What I do see is small changes of
innovation; innovation that will continually empower others to create what they see in their
future, regardless of what our current knowledge of design, fashion, and art is. I believe our
subjective view on beauty will continue to morph as our creativity expands, defining fashion and
art by the uniqueness of each new idea.
I see clothes becoming more sustainable; I believe we will begin producing fabrics that
are stronger, lighter, and less impactful on our environment. Take silk, for example: born in
China and kept a state secret for years, this beautiful fabric was made from a special type of
caterpillar, called a silkworm. Feeding the silkworms their sole diet of mulberry leaves and
waiting until they were full enough to form a cocoon, the chinese would steam the caterpillars to
kill the pupae inside, and then soak the carcass in hot water so the silk could unravel. Both
unsustainable and horrifying to think about, this practice was done for hundreds of years, and has
continued up until now. Only recently has technology given us a new way to produce silk: this
new “silk” is not from a recently discovered insect, or from a rare plant found only in certain
parts of the world. It is produced by humans, through a combination of water, silica, and
cellulose. While it may sound simple, we have had these resources at our fingertips for years; we
simply weren’t advanced enough in our science to blend these materials into a synthetic silk.
Only recently have we found the technology capable of mimicking one of nature’s most elusive
fibers, and it is this breakthrough that convinces me of the innovation that is yet to come.
Let’s look back on the Shanghai Tunnels. Carved through the belly of downtown
Portland, these tunnels were originally used as a quick route for shipments to get from the
Willamette docks to the basement of businesses. This underground world trafficked tons of
Portlanders and their goods; innovative before its time, these tunnels were a way for a city to use
the earth beneath them as a way of life, instead of a simple foundation on which to build their
homes. In ten years, I see this same future for our cities. As our population expands, living
underground could become the new norm; with no way to expand outwards or upwards, we will
be forced to use our innovation go into the earth. Even now, many cities within the United States
are contemplating expanding downwards, using soil and rocks as a foundation for the walls of
their homes. Looking towards our future, I see our knowledge of soil expanding, as we learn of
the natural insulation we could find from burrowing our way into the ground. I see the safety of
our nation increasing; if we can build whole cities underneath layers of soil, we can save the
heartache of homes and families being ripped apart by natural disasters. Innovation does not only
create a new way of design; it creates a new way of life. Technology will teach us how to build
safer, smarter, and more environmentally efficient homes as we gain knowledge of the materials
right below our feet.
As we continually better our understanding of technology, we will let innovation lead the
way to a more sustainable, contemporary era. Our views of beauty will constantly change as our
way of life improves, and this change will be apparent in how we dress, how we build, and how
we create the beauty we see around us. I believe we will define fashion and art in the uniquest of
ways, based on the originality of each new idea. I believe we will build deeper and higher than
ever before, as technology propels us into an era more advanced than we’d ever dreamed.
Innovation will lead us to success, as both beauty and sustainability is prioritized in our
development of the new world.