Clothing Grown From Bacteria

Illustration for article titled Clothing Grown From Bacteria

No, this top isn't woven from human skin but something potentially even more gross: Bacteria.


Using a bathtub mixture of yeast, bacteria and sweetened green tea, designer Suzanne Lee produces extremely thin sheets of bacterial cellulose. When wet, they're pliable, and can be shaped into clothing. The seams are simply "sewn" by squeezing two sheets together.

Once dry, you get what ecoutree describes as a "papyrus-like surface"—which doesn't sound so comfortable to wear, but hey, sustainability! Rah rah!

My issue with this bacterial fashion isn't just its, well, complete, utter, lack of appeal. My issue is that, on the designer's site, the method is teased with the phrase: "Imagine if we could grow clothing..."

This may come as a surprise to some, but mankind is actually very, very good at growing clothing. We call it cotton. Through slightly less direct methods, we call it wool and silk. And if we're really scraping the barrel, feel free to sweep up the floor after my quarterly haircut. [Bio-couture via ecoutree via inhabitat]



I think your issues are unfounded.

1.) You might want to reanalyze your bacto-phobia - considering the world is covered in bacteria - including yourself. Disliking something because of bacteria is kinda like disliking all sushi: there may be some types you like, some you don't - but someone who generally dislikes 'all' sushi is probably just really close minded.

2.) "Imagine if we could grow clothing". Do you grow your own clothing? I certainly don't. It would appear that Suzanne Lee can. Cotton doesn't really count. Farmers grow cotton, which is then harvested, and processed through a long chain of industrial processes (resulting in high embodied energy and significant amounts of chemical waste) before it ends up as your simple, nice white t-shirt.

3.) I'm thinking you missed a few other key phrases - in particular "Arts and Humanities Research Council" and "Fashion Research Project". I know it's fun to be all like "haha, the experimental work of this artist isn't nearly as pragmatic as an industrial practice that has existed for hundreds of years", but come on ... seriously? If there is ecological, economical, or practical merit to the work, it will get picked up and developed to maximize those values. However, at the moment, it is fashion / art produced utilizing some interesting scientific methods, and in that alone it has value. It's not that it's "The Answer", but continuously challenging convention is critical to move forward as a society.