Biocouture – or how to grow clothes from microbes
Ever thought about growing your clothes from microbes and green tea? No, it’s not sci-fi, it’s Biocouture by Suzanne Lee.
“BioCouture is investigating the use of microbes to grow a textile biomaterial. Certain bacteria will spin microfibrils of pure cellulose during fermentation which form a dense layer that can be harvested and dried.
To a sugary green tea solution we add a mixed culture of bacterial cellulose, yeasts and other microorganisms to produce a flexible cellulose mat. The bacteria feed on the sugar and spin fine threads of cellulose. As these start to stick together they form a skin on the liquids surface. After two to three weeks, when it is approximately 1.5cm thick, we remove the cellulose skin from the growth bath. We can then either use it wet to mold onto a 3D form, like a dress shape, or dry it flat and then cut and sew it into a garment.We can readily dye and print on the material and since it requires far less dye than other fibres it has a huge environmental advantage”
The material is nearest in feel to a vegetable leather and it can be safely composted when you no longer want it. Left untreated the material is super-absorbent. Our challenge is to explore how we can control the bacteria to produce cellulose in a desired shape, maintain flexibility, master the biodegradation and make it water-resistant or Ê»hydrophobicÊ¼. “
Biocouture is featured in The Power of Making Exhibition, Â A V&A and Crafts Council exhibition