The Libertine has the story on Brooke Roberts, a knitwear designer/cardiac radiographer who’s doing some very cool things with fashion design.
Knitwear designer Brooke Roberts is a busy woman. By day, she works as a cardiac radiographer at King’s College Hospital in South London. By night she designs knitwear based on her patients’ CT and MRI scans. Her innovative approach to design has seen her awarded 2011 Creative in Residence at London’s Hospital Club, owned by Microsoft Co-Founder Paul G Allen, and she has consulted luxury brands on their approach to knits. The link to the Hospital Club has provided additional source material; Brooke has used brain mapping images from the Allen Brain Institute in Seattle in several fabrics.
“Being a radiographer means analysing images. It’s heavily aesthetic-based, so when I’m working as a radiographer, I’m looking at fluoroscopic x-ray images all day and I even create images through fluoroscopy and live x-rays’, she explains.
“A fluoroscopic image is different from single shot diagnostic imagery, which produces a single image,’ she continues, ‘Fluoroscopic imagery acquires a certain number of frames-per-second, so it provides real-time moving images on the screen. The images help me with ideas about shape and form and about how to construct art works that can mould and map the body. I’m always taking ideas from what I’m seeing, whether it’s medical or non-medical and I focus on what interests me as a person.
“My research has extended way beyond the images I create. It started at radiography and has grown as a concept which involves looking at the body broken down into images and how that can be made into fabric.’
Four years ago, after working with other designers, Brooke felt confident enough to go it alone. She set up Brooke Roberts Knitwear and already supplies luxury knitwear products to Browns in South Molton Street in London’s Mayfair. Her label is also stocked online at Avenue 32.
Since her university days at Sydney, Brooke says she’s always harboured a love of science and an interest in fashion, but never thought the two careers could co-exist so harmoniously. It wasn’t until she began collaborating with another designer that she gained the relevant experience. Together they developed a tailored way of cutting knit that was like cutting cloth. It’s complex, as the level of detail in a medical image is so enormous that it makes it impossible to condense it into a knitting machine. But Brooke relishes a challenge; this turned out to be pioneering research.
“MRI and CT scans lend themselves well to knit, she says. ‘They are digital files and at their most basic level, they are pixels and in a knitting machine a pixel is a stitch, so they’re programmable, and they do translate. But you’d need a machine that was hundreds of metres wide to cope with that level of detail!’, she laughs.
‘So I had to go through a process of translation. I can simplify medical images and I can enhance or reduce their definition and make the image just black or white. It’s called the ‘grey scale’ in medical terms. When I play with the image, it loses its texture and becomes flat and then I can make that translate’.
Brooke is able to work with existing computer programmes using a mixture of sketching, Photoshop and Illustrator to develop what she imagines her garment should look like. At this point it becomes a file that will work with a digital knitting machine.