THE BLOG

Radiography and Fashion Design - How I Turned Brain Scans Into a Fashion Brand

21/07/2015 16:39 BST | Updated 21/07/2016 10:59 BST

Living and working in a city like London, it's not unusual to meet people doing at least two jobs - chasing a dream or trying to get a side-career off the ground while holding down a day job that pays the bills. I'm one of those people, but my careers span radiography and fashion design and they coalesce, so I guess my story is a little less linear and a little more hybrid than most. I like to think I'm 50% science, 50% design - each part is inspired by and dependent on the other.

It was while performing a CT head scan at the North Middlesex Hospital in London in 2008 that it struck me how textural and beautiful the brain scan images were. As they appeared on the screen slice by slice I saw the brain's structures form and recede, changing from light to dark grey and black as the x-rays sliced through the different anatomical structures, as if for the first time. It set off a creative spark in me that continues to this day. 

As a radiographer and fashion designer I use medical images to inspire fabric designs, crossing over between two careers that may seem miles apart, but actually compliment each other beautifully. I have been a radiographer since the late 90's but always craved a creative career. It wasn't until I graduated from a fashion degree in London in 2005 and began juggling both careers that I realised how creative and artistic radiography and medical imaging can be, particularly with advances in 3D image reconstruction software for CT, Ultrasound and MRI scanning. We're exploring and imaging the human body in new ways, giving rise to aesthetic images that excite the imagination and give me bursts of creative ideas to turn medical images into fabrics and then clothing, accessories and home furnishings.

The chance idea in the CT scanner at the North Middlesex Hospital led me to a knitwear factory in Italy in the pursuit of translating CT head and sinus scans into knitted fabrics. I had a basic understanding of knitting after three years working part-time for a knitwear designer, but I had been focussed on the technical side of making clothing (pattern cutting and garment construction) rather than fabric design. The factory owners let me loose with some basic programming knowledge and a computer. Armed with scans given to me by friends and family I began developing digital designs from the sinus and brain scans in the format required by the Industrial knitting machines. I went through a process of assigning each pixel in the scan to a needle on the knitting machine. It was an experimental process that was a technical and painstaking challenge. Once achieved, the knitting process began and I mixed wool, cashmere, silk, nylon, camel hair, viscose and bio-ceramic yarns to explore colour, texture and fabric properties. It was the most exciting experiment I had ever done. To realise my idea and refine it to create final knitted fabrics, then create a fashion collection to present at London Fashion Week was exciting, rewarding and terrifying (sinus scan fashion... what would the reaction be?) It was at that point that I decided to launch my fashion label because I had found an exciting connection between medical imaging and design and I wanted to spread the message of how inspiring medical images, and our insides, can be. I wanted to celebrate the beauty in the images and start a new conversation to bring science, technology and fashion closer together.

Over the course of my blog I will share my hybrid designs worn by inspirational women from the fields of science, technology and medicine alongside news from my journey fusing medical imaging and design, starting with images of the first ever sinus and brain scan knitwear collection below. Stay tuned and if you're interested/inspired/wired get in touch via twitter or the conversations section.

Brooke Roberts Autumn/Winter 2010 collection:

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