Grow your own frock

Well, not quite. Not yet, anyway.

But Suzanne Lee at Central St Martins, along with collaborators at Imperial College London, is cultivating bacteria in baths of yeast and sweetened green tea. As the bacteria grow, they produce cellulose, which forms a thick mat over two to three weeks. When dried off, this material can be cut into shapes and sewn into garments, or moulded to fit a 3D form such as a mannequin.

Advantages: It dyes more easily than cotton and is biodegradable.

Disadvantages: It’s not easy to get a consistent quality of material at the moment. And it’s not water resistant. In fact, it absorbs about 100 times its own weight in liquid. If you get caught in the rain wearing a bacterial cellulose garment, it will get really heavy, swell and probably fall apart. Best keep a plastic mac handy.


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Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

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