If you’re wearing cotton, you’re actually clothed in cellulose, a natural polymer found in all plants. 210,000 billion litres of water is used to produce cotton each year, making it the thirstiest fabric on the planet. The large volume of water and toxic pesticides guzzled to farm it obviously have a significant impact on the environment and human health.
This ‘BioCouture’ jacket is also made out of cellulose, but of a different kind. Instead of coming from plants, the cellulose was produced by millions of tiny bacteria grown in bathtubs of sweet green tea, providing an ecologically refreshing alternative to cotton.
For hundreds of years, people in Asia have used cultures to make a fermented health drink called kombucha. The process of fermentation produces floating mats of cellulose which most people simply throw away. But designer Suzanne Lee is using it to make her unique line of BioCouture clothing.
If BioCouture fabric can be grown in labs, it could be a natural, non-toxic and compostable alternative to cotton. Currently, the fabric absorbs water very easily and would probably turn to jelly if exposed to rain but Suzanne is working with scientists to add water-repelling molecules that would eliminate this problem. She is also working with scientists to figure out how to produce BioCouture in mass scale through highly efficient “living textile” factories.
Suzanne Lee sees huge potential for this material:
“One day it might be possible to produce bacterial cellulose in a huge array of different forms, feels and colours. In the future we could find ourselves surrounded by bacterial cellulose – in our clothes, our books and magazines, our cars, our buildings…the possibilities are almost endless!”