The Cabbage Project shirt uses red cabbage juice to indicate changes in the pH levels of water

It can be difficult to convey the effects of climate change to people, as many of them are imperceptible or occurring elsewhere. However, design firm The Unseen found a way to highlight some of these human-driven environmental changes using fashion. To coincide with World Environment Day, they created a special ‘Cabbage Project' shirt that changes color with different pH levels in water.

The shirt is dyed with red cabbage juice, which contains the pH indicator anthocyanin. Whenever the water used to wash the shirt has a different pH level, the color of the shirt changes. The shirt arrives in the color purple, indicating a perfectly balanced pH level of 7. The shirts were tested with waters from different locations, and the changes in color were beautiful but troubling, since they made water pollution evident.

Lauren Bowker, founder of The Unseen, explained to Wired UK that the group was “trying to use material science and platforms like fashion to talk about important subjects. It’s an easy platform to express complex issues without sounding like a psycho.”

“Will people understand and relate to how it impacts them today and not just in the future?” Bowker added. “Maybe not – not everyone understands politics, me especially. But if I see a T-shirt in front of me change colour when a car goes past or when the water is too acidic to drink or for wildlife to live in then that I'll understand.”

The Unseen previously created a color-changing hair dye for London Fashion Week, which altered appearance based on humidity and temperature.

The Unseen

It can be difficult to convey the effects of climate change to people, as many of them are imperceptible or occurring elsewhere. However, design firm The Unseen found a way to highlight some of these human-driven environmental changes using fashion. To coincide with World Environment Day, they created a special ‘Cabbage Project' shirt that changes color with different pH levels in water.

The shirt is dyed with red cabbage juice, which contains the pH indicator anthocyanin. Whenever the water used to wash the shirt has a different pH level, the color of the shirt changes. The shirt arrives in the color purple, indicating a perfectly balanced pH level of 7. The shirts were tested with waters from different locations, and the changes in color were beautiful but troubling, since they made water pollution evident.