Picture: Left, Helen Storey, Photo by John Ross
Right, Kate Storey - Photo by Jonathan Gordon

A science-art collaboration elucidating 10 key events in human embryonic development by artist/designer Helen Storey (London College of Fashion) and biologist Kate Storey (University of Dundee).

Helen and Kate collaborated in 1997 to create a series of fashion/textile designs, spanning the first 1,000 hours of human life. Producing these at London College of Fashion, Helen and Kate worked interactively using design at multiple levels to evoke the key embryonic processes that underlie our development. Seen and acclaimed by millions internationally and called a ‘cultural hybrid’, it changed the course of Helen's career - her time is now devoted to ideas and work rooted in science. Kate is dedicated to the public understanding of science.

18 years on, Helen and Kate have collaborated again to produce new dresses, which explore the science behind the development and function of the lungs.

The full collection is 27 dresses, of which 10 are touring in 2011.

Diary excerpts from the sister’s original creative journey in 1997

Click to view archive and new images of the creative process and audience response.

Helen and Kate were invited to discuss Primitive Streak on Radio 4's Woman's Hour. You can listen again to the programme, which aired on Wednesday March 9th, here.

Profile - Professor Helen Storey MBE RDI

Professor Helen Storey is an artist and designer living and working in London. She graduated in Fashion from Kingston Polytechnic in 1981,then worked with Valentino and Lancetti in Rome. She returned to London and worked with Belville Sassoon before launching her own label in 1983 with Caroline Coates’ company Amalgamated Talent. Storey’s late ‘80s and early ‘90s collections were noted for their questioning of traditional notions of glamour, expense and women’s image, including boas created from rags and evening gowns made from plastic refuse-bags or printed with corporate logos. Following her second catwalk show, ‘Present Times’ in 1991, Storey won Most Innovative Designer Of The Year and was nominated for British Designer Of The Year by The British Fashion Council. Following the closure of the trading arm of Helen Storey in 1995, Storey published an autobiography, published by Faber and Faber, aptly titled ‘Fighting Fashion,’ charting her personal experience within the industry.

Since the mid-90s, Storey has been drawn towards the world of scientific research, which has culminated in a series of projects exploring the fields of biology, neuroscience and chemistry. In 1997, the Wellcome Trust initiative ‘Sci/Art’, promoting partnerships between science and art, prompted Storey’s first project that combined these disciplines. Alongside her sister Kate, a developmental biologist at Oxford University, Storey created ‘Primitive Streak’ – 27 pieces of textiles and dress that take the viewer through the first 1,000 hours of human life, from fertilisation to the recognisable human form. A double award-winning project, Primitive Streak has toured in 7 countries since 1997 and has been seen by 5 million people.

In response to the demands of ‘Primitive Streak’, Helen Storey and Caroline Coates established The Helen Storey Foundation in 1997, a not-for-profit arts organisation promoting creativity and innovation. The Helen Storey Foundation has since collaborated across multiple disciplines. This lead to ‘Mental’, a 5-part work that explores, through hand-craft and technology, key emotions present during the creative process, first shown in 2001; and ‘Eye and I’ in 2005-2006, which Storey has described as ‘a new kind of explorative space for emotional interaction between humans’. ‘Wonderland’ a project created with Professor Tony Ryan at Sheffield University, straddles the junction between art, fashion and chemistry and reached an audience of 11 million people in 2008. She continues to develop new hybrid projects that impact the advancement of the curriculum, research, enterprise and the environment.

Catalytic Clothing has been Helen’s collaborative focus since 2008, working with Tony Ryan and 20 other collaborating partners to deliver textile substrates and clothes therefore, that purify air- She continues to develop new hybrid projects that impact the advancement of the curriculum, research and enterprise.

Storey was awarded Honorary Professorships at Heriot Watt University and King's College London in 2001 and 2003 respectively and was awarded visiting Professor of Chemistry at Sheffield University in 2008. Storey is a Senior Research Fellow and Professor of Fashion and Science at The London College of Fashion and Co Director of The Fashion Science Centre. She was awarded the MBE for services to the Arts in June 2009 and a Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) in 2014.
Profile - Professor Kate Storey

Kate Storey is a Developmental Biologist researching how the nervous system forms in the early embryo and during the differentiation of embryonic stem cells. She is Chair of Neural Development and Head of the Division of Cell and Developmental Biology, in the College of Life Sciences, at the University of Dundee, where she also provides leadership on Public Engagement activities. Kate has a lively interest in communicating science and gives lectures for school children and the general public on embryonic development and stem cells. She has also undertaken a number of Sci-Art collaborations, exploring new ways of communicating science; including the exhibition "Primitive Streak" chronicling in textiles key events in early embryonic development, with her designer sister, Helen and "Designs for Life" with printmaker, Paul Harrison.


For further details visit the Storey Lab website:

18 years on - reflections from Helen

Professor Helen Storey February 2011

“Back in 1996 a Wellcome Trust leaflet sent to me by my sister changed my career for good. Primitive Streak was our collaborative answer to bringing her world of developmental biology, and mine, of fashion, together, and it has been touring virtually non stop ever since; almost unheard of for a fashion/textile collection or body of work like this.

In 2010, the Wellcome Trust once again invested in the work so that we could add a new dimension and it could tour further.

The new piece elucidates the development of the lungs and it has been a challenge and a labour of love to get it to exist.

The test has been in part practical; trying to find a way for the new piece to belong to the original collection, whilst at the same time adding something that reflects now – from an artistic perspective. It has at times felt akin to asking a writer to add a new chapter to a book that was creatively finished 14 years ago and I have been unexpectedly surprised how powerful a challenge it has been.

This opportunity has presented enormous positives however - We have been able to work on new educational material (in 1997 we had no idea of the impact, or demand there would be for this) and the new fashion images generated are the best way to re experience the whole work with totally fresh eyes. I’m truly excited at meeting the audiences who will encounter this work now, as well as those who have come across it before and want to re experience it again anew.

The introduction to Kate’s world was the beginning of an adventure into the world of science far more broadly, and it has added a depth, richness and meaning, that working in the commercial world of fashion couldn't provide. In the years since Primitive Streak was first created, I have worked on four other art/science collaborations and I feel that the experiences have literally changed the way my mind works, rather like one might look back at yourself aged 7 and wonder how you got to be who you are today."
18 years on - reflections from Kate

"Creation of the original "Primitive Streak" exhibition had at its centre the interactions between Helen and I, as artist and scientist. It was an organic process, which involved Helen looking down microscopes and experiencing embryonic development as it happens. Witnessing this process and discussing the mechanisms that direct the generation of our bodies gave way to imagining how key events might be distilled and communicated. This was the hardest part, to leap from knowledge to representational designs that, if they were to succeed, had to stand in their own right as works of art.

When we were asked to extend "Primitive Streak" by adding new designs, I felt we were also now in a position to develop on-line scientific information about the developmental events that inspired each piece. This would follow up the many educational projects "Primitive Streak" has inspired with over the years, working with both arts and science students and teachers. The designs are now married up with a plain text description and movie of the biological process they evoke. The site also provides a lay account of underpinning developmental mechanisms, links to further information and also to laboratories working at the scientific cutting edge. A third section overviews what happens when these developmental processes go wrong.


Working in this hybrid space between art and science has its challenges. The work immediately launched important scientific terms out on to the high seas of the fashion world and I was concerned that they would lose their meaning. What has grounded the exhibition over the years is the demand to know more from its audience, the unexpected questions from observant school children that show their curiosity about the biology is piqued. I think "Primitive Streak" works because it is not didactic, but an expansive celebration of our embryonic origins which aims to engage a young and enquiring next generation.

Kate Storey 21st February 2011


Original 1997 Collection:
Designer:  Professor Helen Storey
Scientist: Professor Kate Storey
Producer: Caroline Coates
Produced in conjunction with Helen Bailey (studio and atelier) and Trish Belford (Textiles) and with London College of Fashion.
For further archive information visit

New commission for 2011
Lung Dress:

Textiles: Trish Belford at University of Ulster assisted by Duncan Neill and Kerry Brogan
Dress realisation: Helen Bailey
Tour producer: Caroline Coates assisted by Susan Ibreck and Laura Fidment
Design of Graphics, web and communications DED

See HSF Tumblr for touring activities. Also see the Red Fur Neuralation Dress at Wellcome Collection's new Reading Room.

Photographer: John Ross
Model: Connie Chiu
Make up and hair: Cheryl Corea at Mandy Coakley
Assistant to Helen Storey: Laura Brown
Post production: Justin Metz
Atmospheric effects: Bob Smoke


Thanks to:
Marissa Buckingham, Amy Carter, Matthew Holley, Mark Krasnow and Ross Metzger of Stanford University USA, Terry McCartnew, Nature Magazine, Deidre Pashley, Kees Weijer and Jason Swedlow of the University of Dundee for movies, Claire Willis, Dr Shona Gray and Dr Sarah-Jane Gibb.

Primitive Streak was originally funded by a Sciart grant from the Wellcome Trust in 1997. The 2011 tour was funded by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, which has significantly contributed
towards the development and creation of new pieces, which elucidate the formation of the lungs.


Helen and Kate Storey's new Red Fur Neuralation Dress can be seen in Wellcome Collection's new Reading Room, which opened in February 2015.
For other public exhibitions see the HSF Tumblr page.

@ProfHelenStorey @CarolineHSF @HelenStoreyFdn

Supported by

DED Associates Centre for Fashion Science Sheffield City Council Helen Storey Foundation The University of Sheffield Science Learning Centre University of Dundee University of Ulster NETPARK London College of Fashion Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity Newcastle Science Fest

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