Chemistry is foundational to many careers, and Elise Hadjis, a recent graduate from the Colorado State University Department of Chemistry and soon-to-be graduate from the Department of Design and Merchandising, proved this with a big win at the 2022 “All In Bloom” fashion show.
Hadjis won both the Excellence in Construction prize and the first Birdsong Outstanding Senior Capstone Collection for her collection “Fish Don’t Exist.” She applied her major in chemistry to help her designs stand out.
A passion for the outdoors
Hadjis, who started sewing at age five, grew up in Colorado and always loved hiking and getting outside.
“That’s one thing I love about innovation in garments, is when I’m actually backpacking you realize first-hand what you’d want in a clothing item because you’re your own consumer,” she said. “I just find it so cool when you can make innovative technology that would actually help out in those situations.”
For this reason, she focused her “Fish Don’t Exist” collection on unique and technical outerwear, including three types of coats.
The designs in her final collection were a result of a year-long collaboration between Hadjis and sponsored by Boulder-based outdoor gear company, Artilect, featuring patented lamination and production process technology from Cohesive Systems LLC.
“Elise has always pushed herself to incorporate textile science innovation into her work,” said Jennifer Jeanneret, an instructor and the internship coordinator in the Department of Design and Merchandising. “She was a key collaborator on a year and a half long independent study that allowed her to develop proof of concept garments featuring both dye sublimation and embedded electronics.”
Artilect had been looking into a new type of in-line lamination technology, which is used in Hadjis’ final designs.
As a part of the collaboration, Hadjis’ job was to investigate the feasibility of utilizing this new technology and test out its functionality in construction.
“Her in-depth research on how to ensure seam integrity for optimal electronic performance and water repellency was referenced by industry professionals for their exemplary execution,” said Jeanneret.
Innovation in materials science
Each of her three designs for “All in Bloom” highlighted a different benefit of this new material.
The layering of this new waterproof technology allows for wiring to be sewn into the garment. This jacket has functional, sewn-in lights.
This jacket has strategically placed, dry-wicking thermal wools that regulate body heat. This garment is ultra-light and designed to retain or wick heat in strategic areas, demonstrating the customizable nature of the membrane laminate system.
Designed as a lightweight shell, this jacket offers airflow in strategic areas like the underarms and back, but offers rain protection in the hood and shoulders.
Hadjis initially started at CSU as a design and merchandising major, but quickly realized she missed science.
“If you’re in design you understand the design side, but if you’re trying to construct with a material that has a lot of innovation going on you have to understand the materials side,” she said. “You might hit a lot of problems and not understand why. And then, vice versa, there’s so many cool technologies that can be developed, but they can be impractical for sewing, design and production.”
Hadjis started to work in the textiles lab, where she got involved in textiles research, specifically transferring glass-based solar panels into polymers, which would allow for fabric-based solar panels.
This experience turnout to be “very, very chemistry-heavy,” she said, and inspired her to pursue a second major in chemistry.
“Textiles and fiber chemistry are at the root of what we do in fashion design and more specifically in the outdoor performance category,” said Kevin Kissell, an assistant professor in design and merchandising. I always encouraged Elise to look for connections on how she could innovate her design endeavors by thinking about how chemistry could be at the forefront. She also found wonderful support through Dr. Vivian Li, our textile scientist, and Dr. Kristen Morris, our product development expert.”
Looking to the future
Hadjis’ internship this summer is with a company contracting with the Department of Defense, and she’ll be focusing on prototyping electronic textiles.
After her internship, she hopes to one day pursue a Ph.D. and work on innovative designs for an outdoor company or in the realm of sustainable fashion.
“My hope is that she combines her two passions in order to make the fashion industry more inclusive and more sustainable through thoughtful design,” said Kissell. “During her design senior capstone presentation, the industry panelists were blown away at the level of complexity and design innovation that Elise brought to the table. I have no doubt that she will go far in whatever direction she chooses to explore.”
Jeanneret couldn’t agree more.
“I hope that technology-driven apparel companies, be they in textiles or outdoor apparel, snatch her up,” she said. “She is driven, smart, self-governed, and creative. Hire her!”