From a Vat of Green Tea, Grows Gross (but Cool) Green Fashion called BioCouture (Photos)


Bio Bomber Jacket, grown from a vat of green tea. Image courtesy of Suzanna Lee.

Is it possible to "grow a frock from a vat of liquid" using cellulose-spinning bacteria? This is exactly what fashion designer Suzanna Lee asked before she began BioCouture, a research project based at Central Saint Martin's College in London. From a vat of sugary green tea, she grew a textile biomaterial, resulting in seamless clothing that has the look and feel of vegetable leather (we read it first on Seed and Sew). Click through for more gross (but cool) photos, and our questions answered by the designer, after the jump:



A "bio bowl."

Vegetable Leather Grown from a Vat of Green Tea

bio couture photo

BioBiker Jacket.
bio couture photo

BioBiker Jacket, zoom.

Since my English degree hardly qualifies me to explain the science behind it, I asked Suzanna to explain the process. She does so, below.

The process uses a sugary green tea recipe, to which, a bacterial culture is added. It takes about 2-4 weeks to grow a sheet that is thick enough to use. Sheets are then dried down; either shaped over a wooden dress form--like the ghost dress and ruff jacket [images, below]--or sewn together conventionally. Depending on the recipe the material can either feel like paper or--more desirably--like a vegetable leather.

In testing with dyes we found no need for mordant [a substance used for dyeing fabrics] and an incredibly small amount of dye goes a long way so it's eco-credentials go through the entire process. We also recycle a percentage of the fermentation liquid.


Bio Ghost Dress.

Most recently, Suzanna has collaborated with two scientists at Imperial College London; Professor Paul Freemont, a synthetic biologist, and Professor Alexander Bismarck, a chemical engineer. They hope to modify the material and make it hydrophobic, more durable.


Bio Ruff Jacket.

Unfortunately, the clothes are not yet commercially available. However, an experimental prototype, the BioRuff jacket, is on display at London's Science Museum in their new exhibition: 'Trash Fashion - designing out waste'. BioCouture will host public demonstrations at the Science Museum's 'Antenna Live' from 12-5pm, August 3-5, 2010.



Bio Denim Jacket
All images courtesy of Suzanna Lee.

Come September, Bio Couture will present a workshop at 100% Materials, part of 100% Design, during London Design Week.

More: BioCouture

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