Tactility Factory, a spinoff company from the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, began with collaboration between an architect and a textile designer to create Girli Concrete™, concrete with a tactile fabric appearance created by embedding materials such as linen or velvet into the mix. The “dressed up” concrete, which can be used in building products such as landscape pavers, floors or pillars, earned architecture professor Ruth Morrow and textile designer Trish Belford a Big Idea Award from the University of Ulster and Queen”s University, as well as a nomination for a 2011 Homes & Gardens magazine Designer Award.
Could a concrete overcoat be far behind? Maybe not, but a concrete dress is on the blocks. The U.K.’s Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) funded a project pairing Tactility Factory with Helen Storey, professor of Fashion and Science at London College, to develop a flexible concrete dress designed to absorb urban air pollutants, in a project called Catalytic Clothing. “Existing technology, used in sunscreens and glass cleaning, was diverted to the development of a textile that could potentially deliver a solution to air pollution,” says Belford. The fabric base, devoré velvet, was sprayed inside with beads of concrete formula, giving the dress a sculptured look. The anti-pollution agent is titanium dioxide, which is used in pigments and sunscreens. No reports have emerged so far about the comfort or weight of the flexible fashion statement, but the glamorous look commands attention. The dress goes on display in June 2011.