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.
From this microbial soup, fibers begin to sprout and propagate, eventually resulting in thin, wet sheets of bacterial cellulose that can be molded to a dress form. As the sheets dry out, overlapping edges “felt” together to become fused seams. When all moisture has evaporated, the fibers develop a tight-knit, papyrus-like surface that can be bleached or stained with fruit and vegetable dyes such as turmeric, indigo, and beetroot.
The fibers result in thin, wet sheets of bacterial cellulose that can be molded to a dress form
The ruffle-embellished jacket is the latest addition to Lee’s kooky collection of biofilm wearables, all of which can be swiftly composted when they wear out. It’s currently on display at London’s Science Museum, where it’s part of a new exhibit, Trash Fashion: Designing Out Waste.