Co.Design

BioCouture: High Fashion Grown From Microbes

The same process used to ferment green tea can produce beautiful -- if not exactly ready-to-wear -- garments.

In an age of recycled plastic bottle suits and solar-powered Diane von Furstenberg bags, it was only a matter of time before someone turned bacteria into high fashion.

Yes, eco-chic has gone to an absurd -- and strangely beautiful -- place, with Suzanne Lee's BioCouture prokaryote-grown garments. Lee, a senior research fellow in the school of fashion and textiles at Central Saint Martins in London, makes clothes from the same microbes used to ferment green tea. By throwing yeast, sweetened tea, and bacteria into bathtubs, she produces sheets of cellulose that can be molded into something you might actually want to wear. (Fortunately, the microbes are non-pathogenic.)

The results are completely haunting. Consider this ruffle jacket, which looks like it was pulled from the closet of Bloody Mary.

The pieces of the garments fuse together as moisture evaporates, forming seams. Lee then tints them with fruit or vegetable dye. When they wear out, you just toss them in the compost bin.

Lee's work is clearly designed to provoke larger questions about where fashion comes from and what it means to turn out environmentally sustainable clothing -- it isn't designed to be worn every day. At least we hope not. No fashionista wants to go around looking like a walking infection.

A sample of BioCouture is on display at the Science Museum in London as part of the new Trash Fashion: designing out waste exhibit. For more information, visit Lee's blog here.

[Homepage Image via the Science Museum; all other images via Ecouterre]

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