Prestigous medal for textile expert Laing

Otago University professor says award is a credit to the university, colleagues, students and industry collaborators.

Otago University professor says award is a credit to the university, colleagues, students and industry collaborators.

MATERIAL EVIDENCE: Gisborne woman Raechel Laing’s 40-year career in textiles has taken her into fields as varied as workplace hazard mitigation and forensics. Her passion for her profession has now earned her a prestigious medal from the international organisation that governs her field of research, The Textile Institute. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

A LIFE-LONG passion for textiles and fabrics has led to the award of a prestigious medal to former Gisborne woman Raechel Laing.

As director of Otago University’s clothing and textiles centre, Professor Laing researches the structure and performance of fibres and fabrics and particularly their interactions with the human body.

The medal was awarded to Professor Laing by the international organisation, The Textile Institute.

To be selected for the award is a credit to the University of Otago, colleagues, students and industry collaborators, she says.

“I am really gratified.”

Fibre is so much a part of the furniture in people’s daily lives — literally in the case of upholstery — it is taken for granted, says Professor Laing.

“There are fibres everywhere, in clothing, upholstery, carpets and geotextiles.”

Geotextiles and agricultural textiles have particular relevance in Gisborne’s agriculture-driven economy.

“Fabric is used to stabilise roads and a non-woven fibrous assembly can be sprayed on to the ground to create a mat.”

This facilitates plant growth, moisture retention and minimise erosion. It can also contain seed.

“Other fabrics are used for wind-breaks. Others are laid under trees to reflect sunlight and enhance even colouration in fruit such as mandarins.”

Hazards for forestry workers

Professor Laing’s research has taken her into product design to help limit potential hazards for forestry workers.

She is also reviewing promotional material from various supply groups’ claims about their fabrics. These include claims about breathable and antimicrobial properties.

“Consumers are driven by the desire for health, wellbeing and ethical sourcing. Part of my role is to review scientific literature and producers’ literature to see if the evidence lives up to the claims.”

Worldwide, more organic cotton is sold than produced, for instance, she says.

Educated at Gisborne Girls’ High School where she was head prefect in 1962, Professor Laing later joined her older sister at Otago University. Because she had spent some time in hospital as a child, Professor Laing considered taking up occupational therapy. When her sister suggested she might like to take her childhood love of making clothes for dolls further and told her about a textile course, Professor Laing embarked on what has been a career of 40 years.

Her early studies included physiology, chemistry, microbiology and anatomy.

A dean asked her if she would be interested in undertaking post-graduate work at the University of Tennessee. Professor Laing grabbed the opportunity. She graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Master of Science degree and later gained her PhD in textiles at Otago University.

She has a passion for working with fabric and textiles, she says. Her career has taken her into fields that range from health and safety to crime fighting through forensic work.

“I just love it, it is fantastic. The possibilities are endless.”

Young people might have a dream to become a rock star or writer, but they should remain open to possibilities, she says.

“My advice is keep your options open. Don’t get locked into the dream alone. You do not know what will come up”

Professor Laing will be presented with her medal at the Textile Institute World Conference in Poland in April.

A LIFE-LONG passion for textiles and fabrics has led to the award of a prestigious medal to former Gisborne woman Raechel Laing.

As director of Otago University’s clothing and textiles centre, Professor Laing researches the structure and performance of fibres and fabrics and particularly their interactions with the human body.

The medal was awarded to Professor Laing by the international organisation, The Textile Institute.

To be selected for the award is a credit to the University of Otago, colleagues, students and industry collaborators, she says.

“I am really gratified.”

Fibre is so much a part of the furniture in people’s daily lives — literally in the case of upholstery — it is taken for granted, says Professor Laing.

“There are fibres everywhere, in clothing, upholstery, carpets and geotextiles.”

Geotextiles and agricultural textiles have particular relevance in Gisborne’s agriculture-driven economy.

“Fabric is used to stabilise roads and a non-woven fibrous assembly can be sprayed on to the ground to create a mat.”

This facilitates plant growth, moisture retention and minimise erosion. It can also contain seed.

“Other fabrics are used for wind-breaks. Others are laid under trees to reflect sunlight and enhance even colouration in fruit such as mandarins.”

Hazards for forestry workers

Professor Laing’s research has taken her into product design to help limit potential hazards for forestry workers.

She is also reviewing promotional material from various supply groups’ claims about their fabrics. These include claims about breathable and antimicrobial properties.

“Consumers are driven by the desire for health, wellbeing and ethical sourcing. Part of my role is to review scientific literature and producers’ literature to see if the evidence lives up to the claims.”

Worldwide, more organic cotton is sold than produced, for instance, she says.

Educated at Gisborne Girls’ High School where she was head prefect in 1962, Professor Laing later joined her older sister at Otago University. Because she had spent some time in hospital as a child, Professor Laing considered taking up occupational therapy. When her sister suggested she might like to take her childhood love of making clothes for dolls further and told her about a textile course, Professor Laing embarked on what has been a career of 40 years.

Her early studies included physiology, chemistry, microbiology and anatomy.

A dean asked her if she would be interested in undertaking post-graduate work at the University of Tennessee. Professor Laing grabbed the opportunity. She graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Master of Science degree and later gained her PhD in textiles at Otago University.

She has a passion for working with fabric and textiles, she says. Her career has taken her into fields that range from health and safety to crime fighting through forensic work.

“I just love it, it is fantastic. The possibilities are endless.”

Young people might have a dream to become a rock star or writer, but they should remain open to possibilities, she says.

“My advice is keep your options open. Don’t get locked into the dream alone. You do not know what will come up”

Professor Laing will be presented with her medal at the Textile Institute World Conference in Poland in April.

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