Scientific Style


Written by Betty Wood
Photos and illustrations by Various
31 Sunday 31st July 2011

In his 1871 thesis The Descent of Man, Darwin made the link between fashion and biology even clearer by arguing two things: firstly, in order to procure a mate animals will either “kill” or “drive away their sexual rivals” and secondly, (and crucially less illegal for us humans) animals try to “excite and charm those of the opposite sex”. For peacocks, this means shaking their tail feathers and rattling their can at a pea-hen; male seahorses puff up their pouches (seriously) to sometimes twice the size and will even change colour to woo a would-be-mate. Across the animal kingdom, baboons, fish, chameleons, frogs, octopuses and insects all change their outer skin to attract partners so it seems our human obsession with aesthetics and fashion comes from an established biological background. Here we’ve rounded up the best selection of these combinations in what we've dubbed the ‘science of fashion’.

What do you buy the geek who's got everything? How about one of these chemistry inspired t-shirts by  Advertise your robust health with the chemical formulae for Oseltamivir Phosphate (that’s Tamiflu to you and me - mighty flu be damned) or your wild and hedonistic lifestyle with trimethylxanthine - that's caffeine for you teatotallers. If your dance moves aren't quite up to the standard of the bird of paradise, then try advertising your other assets; show how emotionally (and chemically) well-balanced you are with this Serotonin design. Or if you’re looking to follow the seahorse’s example, why not experiment with colour. These designs come in a charming and bashful range of colours including Kelly green, sunshine yellow and baboon-bum red. Okay we made the last colour up, but you get the point.

Serotonin necklace by Made of Molecules

Continuing along the chemical thread, Made With Molecules is the brain-child of Hawaiian based jewellery designer Raven Hanna. Made from Stirling silver, her designs render the chemical bond structures of many day-to-day products, emotions and staples of biology such as DNA and neurotransmitters. We particularly like her nucleotide base earrings. An extra bonus from Hanna’s brilliant collection is that she donates a percentage of her profits back into scientific and environmental charity organisations.

Wave bracelet by Nervous System

Nervous System is another jewellery boutique that draws on natural structures for inspiration, this time with a more biological slant. Their black nylon ‘Wave’ bracelet is inspired by the mineral skeletons of amoeboid protozoa species of marine life. They’ve also created a range of coral inspired pieces, as well as jewellery designed around plant cell structures and veins.  Their designs extend to homeware and a series of stunning lamps which follow a similar geometric leaning.

How about something a little more out of this world – or solar system? Back in February we featured these intergalactic inspired dresses by Glaswegian designer Christopher Kane as part of his spring 2011 collection. Featuring designs visualising the physics of space, these beautiful designs continue to inspire us as we head towards autumn.

London designer Emma Cook has drawn on the biology of marine life as inspiration for her Cocoon jellyfish dress. Pulling together a range of colours that look equally stellar, this repeated design depicts one of the planet's simplest and most intruiging life forms.

US designer Diana Eng  is likewise enthused with the natural world, and uses her interest in science as the basis for many of her fashion designs. Most recently she's used  biology as the basis for her laser-cut t-shirt designs launched earlier this month. Inspired after reading Bossypants by Saturday Night Live funny-lady Tina Fey, Eng decided to do the impossible by combining comfy with elegant with these lace-design t-shirt tops. Botanical cell structure designs were studied and mimicked in order to create fabric stability and the result is both elegant and stunning. Eng’s collections often draw on mathematics, science and technology as a source of inspiration for her garments.

Finally, if you're looking for something for the home, then how about this cell inspired chair by Thai designer Anon Pairot. Entitled  the 'restrogen' chair - yes that is a mix of the words rest and oestrogen, these aluminium cast chairs mimic the structure of plant cells to bring you comfort and cutting edge design. We're dubious about the first part of that, but we ca't argue with the second, these chairs would look great in any minimal modern living space.

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at and we will respond asap.