The witch who’s made the world’s first colour-change hair

 

Lauren Bowker is a witch. In fact, she grew up in Reed, very close to Pendle Hill where women were infamously hung in 1612 after being accused of murdering people with witchcraft.

“I have always been into the occults and into mixing stuff,” she says. “Even as a kid I used to mix bath potions, and was really hands-on with the stuff I had around me, making new products out of them, without even knowing I was doing it.”

As well as being a witch, she’s also an extremely inventive data visualisation scientist who uses fashion – something she believes dictates trends in science – to communicate her ideas. THEUNSEEN is her material exploration house that aims to bring to life the hidden worlds around us – she’s created a headpiece for Swarovski with gemstones that change colour in response to brain activity, a jacket that responds to air pollution and now, with her latest project FIRE, she’s developed a hair dye that changes colour as temperature drops and rises, to be launched at London Fashion Week in collaboration with Storm Models. Yes I tried it, yes it works and according to Bowker, just came from “messing about in the lab”.

 

“When heat hits the pigment, or if the cool hits the pigment, it changes the bonds of the chemistry to give you a different colour, so it’s like a chemical reaction,” says Bowker. “However, we also work with ones that change their structure, which gives you a light refraction instead, so it’s more like a prism colour change. On the outsider’s version of what the technology does, it changes its colour to temperatures. So we tuned those so that if you’re inside you get one colour and if you’re outside you get another colour. If you have red hair and you’re in the wind it might go blue. So what we did was look at data patterns of weathers and the environment in different countries and tailor the colour changes to correlate with those.”

A big part of THEUNSEEN’s mission statement is to make science more accessible and help people to connect with information that is ubiquitous, but hidden in plain sight. “If I give you a book of data and say this is your carbon footprint, and say ‘look at what you’ve done it’s really bad’, you probably wouldn’t listen to it,” says Bowker. “But if I give you a jacket, put you behind a bus and that jacket changes colour to visibly show you the pollution that surrounds you at that moment, you’re really going to understand it and have more of a connection to it. The reason I use colour a lot as a data visualisation in materials that we’re familiar with, is to allow people to see the bigger picture.”

“The occult has bad connotations of being a dark art and being taboo. When really it’s just a spiritual way of living” – Lauren Bowker

Bowker’s affinity for the occult and the world of witchcraft is no joke either. She sees it as a necessary template for understanding the material world around you and understanding the world you live in. “Old school female chemists and doctors had a really bad time with the church and were depicted as witches,” she says. “Now the occult has bad connotations of being a dark art and being taboo. When really it’s just a spiritual way of living. Technology like Apple, Google, yes they are technology, but for me technology should be magic and shouldn’t be engineered all the time. To me, chemistry and science is witchcraft – and so it should be.”

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