Green Tea and the Fashionable bacteria

September 8, 2010

Okay, so this story has been making the rounds on the blogosphere for some time now but for those of you who have not yet cyber-stumbled upon this little fashion revolution, you’re in for a treat!
Suzanne Lee’s BioCouture exhibition at the Science Museum last month brought together years of hard work…fermenting green tea in order to make jackets.  Yes you read that correctly.  Lee, a senior research fellow at Central Saint Martin’s School of Fashion and Textiles, has created garments of eco-friendly, throwaway fashion from the cellulose produced by bacteria.  The process (put somewhat crudely) involves throwing the bacteria in a bath and mixing it up with some sweetened tea and yeast.

Ecouterre explains that, from this, “fibres begin to sprout and propagate, eventually resulting in thin, wet sheet of bacterial cellulose which can be molded” over a manikin into the desired shape.  You can then overlap these sheets which fuse together as the moisture evaporates.  When dried, the fibers develop a “papyrus-like surface” that can easily be stained with vegetable dies to create colours ranging from deep purple (beetroot) to bright yellow (turmeric).

Now, if you’re already searching for your nearest stockist, just hold tight for the next paragraph as I explain to you what one of these sexy little numbers will do in the rain! 
These garments are the firm textile they are because of the evaporated moisture.  Add that moisture back (cue English weather) and you are basically swimming in that same microbial soup it started out in.  The garment will swell considerably before turning into a gooey, cellulose-y mess.
Now, whilst clothing made from the same microbes used to ferment green tea may not be your idea of a staple piece in your capsule wardrobe this season, Lee’s work does provoke larger questions about where fashion comes from and, particularly when developed from its nascent stages,  proposes the idea of truly sustainable clothing; fashion that, when worn out, can be tossed in the compost bin with your eggshells and teabags.

2 Comments

  1. Mandy says:

    love it! its one way to be ‘green’! I imagine it would be hard stuff to work with!

  2. stocker says:

    Very cool, I think the black jacket above would really suit me 🙂

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