BioCouture (blog) is a research project which uses microbial produced cellulose to produce clothing. Their ultimate goal is to grow a dress in a vat of liquid. Is genetically engineered clothing the future of the industry?
Suzanne Lee is the designer behind this work. In her workshop is London she is collaborating with biologists to grow clothing material. She uses large bathtub sized cultures of bacteria to spin cellulose – creating the core material for the clothing. By drying the material on a mould – the material creates a garment, with no sewing and no seams. BBC Technology covered BioCouture’s work today. Also check out Suzanne’s TED talk on her work below.
Her current methods have the pros and cons but I think they show the amazing potential of even rudimentary work with bacteria to make clothing. Clothing created this way avoids many of the ethical and economic problems with current clothing agriculture – which is a huge plus. The process also cuts down on manufacturing costs, and given the potential for variety in moulds, could be hugely customisable. Better yet the clothing production and products themselves are all biodegradable and would reduce waste significantly.
Her current work uses no genetic engineering – but one can only imagine the possibilities of applying this technology. She mentions in her talk that this technology does not replace others, and I think she is right. However bioclothing as a whole may indeed replace most traditional clothing. Biosynthetic leather and silk are already realities, and wool is not unthinkable either. BioCouture’s innovative production process has the potential to be applied to all sorts of clothing – and it may revolutionise the industry as we know it.