One feature of good design is that it solves a problem, and anyone with children knows that the speed at which infants outgrow clothes is a problem.
To keep buying new clothes is expensive, and can be extremely wasteful. So Ryan Yasin, a London-based designer with a degree in aeronautical engineering, came up with a solution. Yasin drew on his technical expertise to create Petit Pli, a line of children’s clothing made to expand six sizes to fit a child as it grows from six months to three years old. The overlapping, permanent pleats allow the clothes to stretch outward in different directions, and the fabric is durable, waterproof, and recyclable. The innovative kids’ line just made Yasin the UK national winner of the James Dyson Award, a prestigious student design competition.
While Petit Pli isn’t available to purchase yet, Yasin told the Guardian his $2,500 prize will go toward putting the clothes into production. He’s currently raising additional funds and speaking with experts about ethical and sustainable ways to manufacture the clothes. Yasin also said he’s in talks with a large UK retailer, and hopes to get his first shipments into UK stores in a matter of months.
Yasin, who had enrolled at London’s Royal College of Art after deciding he wanted to go into fashion, got the idea for his line after realizing how big a strain the clothing industry places on the environment. Creating fabric uses up huge amounts of natural resources, and turning fabric into clothes can require highly toxic dyes and produce greenhouse gases. Even then, clothes may only be worn briefly before getting tossed.
Yasin wanted to do something to address the problem, and an event in his own life turned his attention to children’s clothing. “My sister was having another baby, and he really inspired me,” he explains in a video posted by the James Dyson Foundation. “I had sent him some clothes, and by the time he got them, he had outgrown them.”
Yasin thought of creating garments that were dynamic, rather than static, and his engineering background led him to imagine clothes with what’s called a negative Poisson’s ratio. The ratio describes the elasticity of a solid, and it’s useful for determining how much a material can be stretched or compressed. Nearly all solids have a positive Poisson’s ratio, meaning that when they stretch in one direction, they get thinner in others. (Think of a rubber band, for instance.) But engineers have devised material structures with negative Poisson’s ratios that can stretch in two directions simultaneously.
These materials are already in use in fields such as biomedical technology. Next stop: children’s clothing.