BROOKE ROBERTS-ISLAM - knits science and sustainability together
Digital knitwear designer
Diagnostic radiographer within the NHS
Material scientist producing biodegradable materials
Co-director of Brooke Roberts Innovation Agency (BRIA)
FashionTech writer for the Huffington Post
KPMG's Shift 100 list for retail technology entrepreneurs in 2017
The Hospital Club 100 list of the most influential and innovative creatives in the UK
It’s hard to believe that this list of titles and achievements could belong to one person. However it can only belong to one person, and that’s Brooke Roberts-Islam.
Cross-discipline, multiple job roles, the Multi-Hyphen Method (as Emma Gannon describes it), is something that most of us can relate to. Brooke flows quite naturally between extremely diverse roles, such as radiographer and knitwear designer. It’s this blend of skills that makes Brooke so unique and incredibly interesting to discuss the fashion landscape with.
Finding that traditional fashion media didn't quite get her projects, Brooke created a space for discussions around fashion, technology and cross-discipline innovation to take place. Brooke embodied FashionTech long before the term was so frequently used, and long before others caught up and wanted a piece of the action. Not only has Brooke created an outlet for her company’s projects, she has opened up the discussion encouraging new ways of thinking. Through her frustration she has created a way for others to be understood and flourish.
The projects that Brooke conceived through the innovation agency - BRIA - she co-founded with her husband, Moin Roberts-Islam, are incredible on so many levels, see two diverse examples below.
Slave/Master An amazing installation shown at the V&A during London Design Festival explored the "borders" around human/robot interaction, reversing the traditional “fear” portrayed in sci-fi films of robots oppressing and interfering with humans.
BRIA X SABINNA Collaboration
BRIA and SABINNA collaborated to create a sustainable fibre recycling process for fashion brands by transforming a fashion capsule collection of wardrobe “staples” into new 100% biodegradable materials. These materials can be used for garment packaging and shop interiors. By developing innovative processes for transforming garments into new biodegradable materials, they successfully demonstrated that without compromising on design, it is possible for brands to create commercial fashion that is circular and that never needs to go into landfill, with the potential to avoid millions of tonnes of garment landfill waste every year. Watch project video on Vimeo.
The way Brooke approaches her work, with no barriers, through exploration to innovation is something we can all learn from.
Sometimes we are searching so hard to find the right direction or solution to our business or design problems and coming to a dead end because we are expecting the solution to look a certain way. But by giving ourselves the space to be free, take time out to explore and remember what it’s like to free of preconceived ideas, perhaps with a fresh childlike naivety, we may well be blown away by what we are capable of.
portrait photos of brooke taken by bec o'conner for black neon digital
other imagery courtesy of brooke roberts-islam
podcast recorded at bria studio in seven sisters, north london
Slave/Master combined choreography by London Contemporary Ballet Theatre and music from composer Rupert Cross with robotics and interactive projection graphics in a collaborative performance.
The performance also used evolving projected graphics as a window into the "souls" of these robots, with bespoke algorithms and projections from our collaborators, creative digital agency Holition.
Robotic arms, software, engineering support and sponsorship were provided by Kuka Robotics UK Ltd, Autodesk, Adelphi Automation, SCM Handling and Plexal.
London Design Festival Video
BRIA X SABINNA collaborated to transform a fashion capsule collection of wardrobe “staples” into new 100% biodegradable materials for use in garment packaging and shop interiors. By developing innovative processes for transforming garments into new biodegradable materials, they successfully demonstrated that without compromising on design, it is possible for brands to create commercial fashion that is circular and that never needs to go into landfill, with the potential to avoid millions of tonnes of garment landfill waste every year.
This was an EU-funded project, supported by WEAR Sustain (part of Horizon 2020), where BRIA x SABINNA set out to develop processes for transforming end-of-life garments made from cellulose-based materials into new 100% recyclable and biodegradable materials. The new materials which were created are similar to paper, card, plastics and even wood, and can be used for garment packaging, tags, building shop interiors and many other applications.