The Textile x Microbiome Relationship: an Interview with Rosie Broadhead of PHIOME

Rosie Broadhead is an apparel designer and researcher specialising in biomaterials in the fashion industry. Founder of the rapeutic clothing brand Skin Series and Textile Scientist at Ghent University. Her current research, at PHIOME, focuses on the skin microbiome and probiotics therapy as a solution for antibacterial finishes in textile which utilises technology that works in synergy with the body.

  • You work at the intersection of textile and skin, how     did you end up here?

Since working in sportswear or performance wear and exploring howmaterials can influence your body, I became especially interested in clothing where the textile is directly in contact with your skin. I became conscious of how your clothes can affect your body. Often our clothing can contain unwanted synthetic finishes or fibres which can disrupt the skin microbiome and potentially be toxic for the body and environment. I wanted to understand what is already existing on our bodies that is functional. Do we really need these extra layers of performance to make us feel cool, or prevent odour? That’s what drew me to looking at the body and the skin, and the skin and textile microbiomes — and how you can manipulate these two kinds of different surface ecologies.  

  • Can you tell us a bit more about what you are working on     with regards to the textile x skin microbiome relationship?

My research focus is understanding what the skin microbiome is, and whyit is so important to the health of our body. I then began a collaboration with a microbiologist, Dr Chris Callewaert, at Ghent University.  We started to explore the relationship between this skin and textiles, and the microbiome interaction between the two surfaces. since then we have developed 'Probiotic Textiles', which we are now scaling under our company, PHIOME. 

  • Could you share some insights into how the textile and     skin (microbiome) relationship influences the design and construction of     garments?

Asa designer and founder of the textile platform SKIN SERIES, I look towards afuture where skin and textiles is considered simultaneously. This means that the garments I design contain ingredients such as algae, and vitamins which have known benefits to skin health. I design garments which are close fitting to the body, such as base layers, and underwear, so these ingredientshave the best chance to transfer to the skin. Collaborating with dancers became important during the design process to understand how the body moves, and how the garments made them feel.  It was important to find what 'performance; meant for female users and design language which would cater for the female body.   

  • Can you elaborate on how the integration of encapsulated     probiotic bacteria into clothing fibres works, and what benefits it offer?

The Probiotic textile finish we are developing at PHIOME uses skin-native microbes with known odour-reducing and skin health benefits, such as encouraging cell renewal and improving the immune system of the skin. This probiotic innovation can be a replacement for antimicrobial finishes in the textile industry.  

  • How do you see the future of textiles with respect to     the skin (microbiome) evolving, both in terms of technological     advancements and broader adoption by consumers seeking skin health     benefits from their attire?

Overall we are noticing the general public is more educated in terms such as 'microbiome', particularly for gut health but the association with skin health is growing. Further advancements in skin microbiology will give us a better understanding of commensal and pathogenic strains in the different areas of the body, and how we can shift the skin to healthy status.  At PHIOME we have over 15 years of research, knowledge and understanding of the skin microbiome, and how we can implement that into textiles for different areas of your body, and cosmetics 

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