Bio-Couture -- Growing Clothes from Bacteria

BioCouture: U.K. Designer "Grows" an Entire Wardrobe From Bacteria | Ecouterre

Suzanne Lee can conjure clothing out of thin air. No, wait, that’s not entirely accurate. She’ll need at least a couple of bathtubs, some yeast, a pinch of bacteria, and several cups of sweetened green tea. Lee, who is a senior research fellow at the School of Fashion & Textiles at Central Saint Martins in London, is the brains (and brawn) behind BioCouture, an experiment in growing garments from the same microbes that ferment the tasty caffeinated beverage.

Collected from: YouTube - Bio-Couture

Haute culture - The Scientist - Magazine of the Life Sciences

Early on in the inception of BioCouture, Lee partnered with David Hepworth, a materials scientist she met in the museum, and they began to informally explore the idea by growing bacterial cellulose in his garage and her bathroom. Today, to improve upon that process, Lee collaborates with researchers at Imperial College London.

Cellulose naturally absorbs water, which doesn't make it an ideal material to sport on a rainy day. "The [cellulose] clothing takes up huge amounts of water and swells, making wearing it a bit unpleasant," says Alexander Bismarck, an Imperial College materials scientist. Rather than chemically altering the cellulose after it has been made, a tedious and not particularly eco-friendly process, Bismarck and Lee, along with Paul Freemont, head of molecular biosciences at Imperial College, are trying to modify the bacteria or growth medium directly to make the cellulose more hydrophobic. It hasn't been easy, says Bismarck: There's a fine line between clothes that turn to goo in the rain and clothes with no moisture absorption all. "Hopefully we will be able to produce a leather-like material from cellulose that has [appropriate] properties for the fashion world," says Bismarck. "I believe, a couple of years down the line, there will be a market for it."


Suzanne Lee

Suzanne Lee is Senior Research Fellow at St Martins School of Art & Design. Her recent AHRC funded project Bio Couture looks at ecological and sustainability issues surrounding fashion.    By harnessing nature she proposes a radical future for textiles.   Her focus is to observe the use of bacterial-cellulose, grown in a laboratory, to produce clothing...literally, to "grow a dress in a vat of liquid".  
Collected from: Suzanne Lee | TFRGDEV