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Sustainable Fashion in “Extrapolations”

"Extrapolations" (2023)

The new TV show Extrapolations is an anthology series created by the writer of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, Scott Z. Burns for Apple TV+. Eight episodes feature eight interwoven stories focused on the effects of climate change on Earth in the period of time from 2037 through 2070.

Marion Cotillard | Meryl Streep | Tobey Maguire and Eiza González in "Extrapolations" (2023)

Starring Golden Globe nominees Kit Harington, Sienna Miller, Tahar Rahim, Tobey Maguire, Matthew Rhys and Golden Globe winners Marion Cotillard, Meryl Streep, Edward Norton and Forest Whitaker, Extrapolations is a quite scary depiction of a future world at a breaking point in terms of climate change and global temperatures that are rising up to two degrees Celsius per year. The show imagines a future of deadly heat waves, rising sea levels and extinctions of species. Fresh air is now available only via special coupons; in some countries it is illegal to go outside during the day because of the heat; the world no longer has cancer, but there are new medical conditions like “summer heart” and “heat rage.”


This ultra-realistic picture of the future in a warming world has many key elements, and one of them is costume design.


The costume designers Nancy Steiner (Lost in Translation), Katie Riley (Prodigal Son) and Analucia McGorty (Pose) did not invent any new styles for the future or create identical jumpsuits for everyone as has traditionally happened in the films about the future. Instead, they based their design concept on the philosophy that fashion is cyclical and always repeats itself.


Interestingly, the show does not have too many futuristic tech wearable features such as a smartwatch enabling eye color change. The wardrobe worn by the Extrapolations characters looks quite contemporary, and this is a reminder of the fact that the troubling images we see on screens are not scriptwriters’ fantasy but a very probable scenario for the future. Contagion, written by Burns, had the same effect back in 2011.

"Extrapolations" (2023)

For one of the Extrapolations episodes, costume designers created special uniforms for school kids that featured heat protection to avoid heat sickness. The uniforms would have a sensor that lit up when kids reach their heat limit: this artistic symbol would hardly leave anyone blind to the climate change issues.

"Extrapolations" (2023)

The Extrapolations costume design suggests a lot of creative solutions to emphasize the hazards of climate change. For instance, the designers use the idea that cotton fields would be gone because of extreme heat and lack of water, hence natural fabrics such as silk, wool and cotton would become unaffordable for most of the planet’s population. Instead of plant-derived fibers, the future clothing industry would use manufactured fabrics. Kit Harrington’s character is one of those rare people on screen who wears “natural” fabrics to manifest his extreme wealth, suggesting that 100 percent cotton is “the diamonds of the future.”


According to the costume design team, they put a lot of effort on making their work on the show as sustainable as possible. To start with, they made a choice to use vintage items instead of buying new outfits, for instance, this is how some of vintage Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood apparel was masterfully recreated to make it appear as clothing from the near future.

"Extrapolations" (2023) "Extrapolations" (2023)

As told to The New York Times, the costume design team also decided to reduce both dry cleaning and shipping on the show’s wardrobe; so Extrapolations literally gives us a huge lesson on the importance of sustainability in fashion as a major step towards environmental awareness and offered us a best practice for making the film industry more sustainable.