Helsinki Design

Week 2020

Naturally Dramatic

Photo: Eren Öztekin

Biobased Colloids

and Materials,

the BiCMat group

Shimmering Wood

Photo: Eren Öztekin
Photo by Valeria Azovskaya_science by Ni

Natural water repelled coating for plant-based textiles 

Skitter Natural Coatings

Photo: Valeria Azovskaya

Circular Costume Design

Designing costumes should be safe 

for you and the environment.

The global film and television industry has substantial impact on the environment -- one big budget movie (over $US 70 million) is estimated to produce 2,840 tonnes of CO2e (Albert et al., 2020).


While there are indications that the sector is interested in “going green,” it has yet to invest in the long-term, systemic changes needed to achieve circular production. Considerable research has been undertaken about sustainable textiles and new technologies in the clothing sector, but analyses of costume design and its contribution to the entertainment sector’s carbon footprint are only just emerging.


Two main studies have analyzed the environmental impact of the western film industry: Sustainability in the motion picture industry (Corbett and Turco, 2006) focuses on the North American market and A Screen New Deal by the British Film Institute (2020) focuses on Europe (Albert et al., 2020). Both conclude that the entertainment industry will be required to make significant changes to meet the aspired 2030 climate goals.


My interest in circular costume design developed while working in the industry. For over a decade, I have worked as textile artist and costume builder in the costume departments of film, TV and stage productions, developing and creating surface designs and effects. In my applied work, I have encountered many materials and wasteful methods, toxic and hazardous for both the environment and the people working with them. I would like to change this. 

At Aalto University in Finland I worked together with material researchers of the Biobased Colloids and Materials (BiCMat) research group led by Prof. Orlando Rojas. The BiCMat group is part of the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems at Aalto and is part of the cross-disciplinary Aalto Materials Platform. The group focuses on finding competitive alternatives to fossil materials through research into bio-based materials.

The outcome of this collaboration was the exhibition Naturally Dramatic. The exhibition was part of the Designs for a Cooler Planet exhibitions and events at Aalto University during Helsinki Design Week, September 2020.

As a result of this collaboration, I launched the Circular Costume Design project in 2020. This project involves material scientists, costume researchers and practitioners committed to developing circular costume design models.


Circularity in the case of costume design refers to the development of frameworks in the triangle of environmental, economic and social practices of a film or stage production. Circular processes enable costume departments to design out waste and pollution in the making and use of costumes, and to keep existing costumes and materials in use by adding new value to reuse and sharing (Ellen MacArthur, 2021). Circular processes increase transparency and interconnectedness through the production chain of costumes between different departments (Matthes A. et al., 2021).

The long-term aim of the Circular Costume Design project is to empower costume departments to work sustainably within the system of film studios, film productions and their supporting supply c.

The Skitter – Natural Water Repellent product trial is the first project under the umbrella of Aalto University and the Circular Costume Design project. Skitter is developed by Dr. Nina Forsman at Aalto University.

Skitter is a two-part, natural water repellent system for plant-based textiles and blends. This new, sustainable biomaterial has successfully passed the proof-of-concept phase in lab tests and is ready for testing in real-world scenarios. 


The Skitter trial, in conjunction with industry partners, will help to further develop Skitter to go-to-market maturity. The Skitter study is a step towards circular practices in costume design.

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