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Healthy Materials, Where, How and Why

Jonsara Ruth & Alison Mears
9:00 am, Oct 28th (EST)
Expert Guest

Jonsara Ruth & Alison Mears

Co-Founder of Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design

Healthy Materials Lab is a design research lab at Parsons School of Design dedicated to creating a world in which people’s health is placed at the center of all design decisions. Committed to raising awareness about toxics used in current building products, we Invent, test, and implement  healthier material alternatives, making them more marketable, accessible, and popular for the next generation of designers and architects to create healthier places for all people to live. Healthy Materials Lab is an interdisciplinary, international, and professionally diverse collective of graduate students, alumni, and faculty with backgrounds in media, architecture, design, community development, education, and business.


The founders: Jonsara Ruth  Jonsara is a designer and artist and founded Salty Labs, a collaborative design studio, to improve environmental health while creating viscerally designed spaces, events, and furniture. Design Director at Healthy Materials Lab, Founding Director of the MFA Interior Design Program, and Associate Professor at Parsons School of Design. Here she led AFTERTASTE, a symposium that brings new definition to the field of interiors.  Alison Mears Mears focuses her research on design strategies that disrupt the building supply chain to incorporate human health as criteria for evaluating building products.  An architect, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Professor of Architecture, and Director and Co-Founder of Healthy Materials Lab. She is co-Principal Investigator of the Healthy Affordable Materials Project (HAMP). 

Expert Guest
Masterclass Intro


In the fifth installment of our Executive Education in Sustainable Fashion series, moderator Bjorn Bengtsson interviews professors Alison Mears and Jonsara Ruth to discuss the work of their research center, the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design. Mears and Ruth discuss the health impact and deep overlap in materials used by both the interior/building and fashion industries and introduce a wealth of exciting materials- and possibilities- being explored and utilized in new, productive and sustainable ways.

Key Takeaways

Main Topic

Using healthy materials in fashion is increasingly important for companies and consumers alike. From a sustainability standpoint, using healthy materials in any industry should by definition, not harm the earth or deplete its natural resources. In terms of human health, sustainability in fashion is important because as Jonsara Ruth states in her interview “clothing we wear is right against our skin [and] that [I think] has a big role to play in human health.”


There are a number of promising projects which academia, the private sector, and others are exploring to advance the future of fashion and sustainability to improve human health/well-being. Among these research ventures are companies exploring biofabricated solutions for complex industrial (and health) problems created when manufacturing and producing fashion products. Biofabrication for fashion is a series of scientific explorations which harness natural ‘technologies’ or ‘products’ without further depleting or harming the planet’s natural resources. Companies such as EvrNu, MycoWorks, Bolt Threads, Orange Fiber among others, are at the vanguard of biofabrication technologies for fashion, offering fresh and sustainable solutions to eliminating waste, reducing toxicity, promoting animal rights and beyond.


Designer Stella McCartney is at the vanguard of working with these sustainable technology companies for fashion. In 2017, her fashion house started a long-term partnership with Bolt Threads to create a series of garments and additionally in 2019, Adidas by Stella McCartney announced an ulta limited run of the very first garment made by EvrNu’s groundbreaking fiber created entirely from recycled fabric. As Mears and Ruth confirmed in their talk, as technology continues to develop more possibilities for healthier materials manufacturing becomes efficient and available to incorporate into materials serving many human needs- clothing and building/interiors among the world’s most important.


“We really feel that our work is... about placing people’s health at the center of all design decisions so that we can create healthier places for everybody to live. ... We do feel this [work] is in direct relationship to fashion... If we say the clothing we wear is right against our skin then that [I think] has a big role to play in human health.”


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