Bio-leather – Growing Clothes from Bacteria and Green Tea

Today Eco-friendly design is slowly taking over the fashion industry. But making an alternative that is so similar to animal products is not an easy task to do. BioCouture, a textile research project, is directed by Suzanne Lee, who is using her design background in collaboration with scientists to bring innovation to textiles.

Fabrics are usually created from plant or animal fibers. But Lee has developed a completely different material source, as well as a new way of production. BioCouture is using microbes to make the eco-designed fabrics. It results in thick, flexible material which imitates leather known as Bio-leather or Vegan leather.


Bio-leather – Working Mechanism

Microorganisms are first released into a solution of sugar, bacteria, and green tea. Sugar serves as the food source for bacteria and releases threads of pure cellulose, which tend to stick together and begins to form a “skin.” This process takes about three weeks and yields a material that is about 1.5 centimeters thick.

Once the fabric is “grown,” it is removed from the bath and can be used in one of two ways:

  1. It is dried flat and cut and sewn like regular fabric.
  2. It can be molded into a three-dimensional form, which creates a perfectly molded shape.

The textile also has other eco-friendly features. It is very easy to dye and print on, and it uses much less dye than other fibers usually would. In addition to that, it is easily recyclable and can be safely decomposed when it is no longer wanted.

Its only drawback is that fabric is its absorbency. When they are exposed to rain, it can get very soggy. The company is planning to improve its water resistance capacity. As the material is still in development, it is not commercially available, but the research is ongoing, and BioCoture is open to collaboration with anyone working in the field.

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Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing sees the possibility of growing your clothes in the future. He writes, “No doubt we’ll all soon be wearing clothing we can print out or grow – purchasing designs online and then heading down to the kitchen to try things on.”

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