In order to grow, plants absorb water, sunlight and carbon dioxide to create oxygen and energy in the form of sugar. But who’s to say the process of photosynthesis should be bound to what grows in the soil beneath our feet?

MACHINE-A collaborates with positive knitwear designer Olivia Rubens on Photosynthesize, a collection that transforms garments into living organisms. Made with and to be sold exclusively at MACHINE-A, central to the Photosynthesizecollection is a focus on morality and communal bonding in the aftermath of the global pandemic.

For Photosynthesize,Rubens expands on her playful, yet twistingly humorous, study on human nature, indebted to making clothing that will leave a positive impact on both the planet and the people that wear her designs.

With MACHINE-A, the designer expands on her ingenious developments in bio design. Taking her cues from 18th century garments and Rococo excess, Rubens examines unforeseen consequences stemmed from the greed and ignorance of bygone generations, using waste and found objects to piece together a collection that finds beauty in the mundane. Inspired by Kintsugi, Rubens fashions her collection through ethical alpaca, Tencel, organic wool and linen and GOTS organic cotton – married with vintage crochet lace tablecloths, old ceramic kitchenware, empty shampoo and household cleaner bottles. Upon closer inspection, you can see remnants of the past lives of these upcycled materials, from barcodes to instruction stickers, each melted into hand-moulded trims.

The focal point to the collection is a series of green garments that are photosynthesis coated with Post Carbon Lab, giving each the qualities to live and breathe like plants. All of these pieces give off oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, and require indirect sunlight and regular misting to maintain their climate positivity.

Knitted in Italy and sewn in the UK – with some pieces sculpted in Canada – Rubens worked with Manusa, a company in Pistoia, Italy which employs refugees and women from unfortunate circumstances, as well as Making For Change, an organisation which employs women both in and rehabilitating from prison.

“Our overall goal for this project is to redefine the meaning of our relationships with our garments, and to empower people with individual agency in climate change solutions. By caring for these photosynthesizing pieces like plants, and displaying them in homes like objects, we hope the nurturing nature of this relationship will strengthen bonds between people and their pieces, watching them transform and thrive over time, while sequestering carbon from the atmosphere” – Olivia Rubens, designer.

“At MACHINE-A we always aim to support and showcase emerging designers that apart from their creative talent, their proposition to the future of our industry is such, that creates new ways for everyone to think, to be inspired and to bring positive change. Photosynthesize, a project by Olivia with the support of the Post Carbon Lab, is the scientific result of transforming garments to living organisms and how do we keep them alive in the environment we are in with our care. Is a project that elongates the life duration of a garment and offers us a better understanding of the fundamental circular relationship between the environment, us and our clothes” – Stavros Karelis, founder & buying director of MACHINE-A.

photography: oscar foster-kane

stylist: laura vartiainen

model: lan di

photography & videography: keir laird

assist: aurelie laugoutte

beauty: martha inoue

set design: olivia rubens