Fermenting bacteria spinning solid skins, plant stalks interlocking to form home-grown lace, human bone grown bangles: just a small selection of the ideas that are born when textile designers meet biologists, material scientists and physicists. Bridging the boundaries of science and fashion, a series of projects are hoping to revolutionise the textile industry, creating a cleaner future. On average for every kilogram of textiles, 10 kilos of chemicals are used which are extremely harmful to both our health and the environment – mainly affecting those in China, India and other countries where these clothes are produced.
"Bridging the boundaries of science and fashion, a series of projects are hoping to revolutionise the textile industry, creating a cleaner future"
The Textile Futures Research Centre at University of Arts London is a hive of activity investigating "how can more sustainable futures be enabled by textiles?". Carol Collette, researcher and course director of the MA Textile Futures course at Central Saint Martins, is an enthusiastic explorer of the potential of synthetic biology for cloth-making. Currently, she’s exploring a new concept for producing lace grown from plants – dubbed BioLace Collette’s research looks at apoptosis: the process in which cells are programmed to die for the benefit of the whole organism – the way gaps between toes are formed in a developing human. In plants, Collette hopes this could be a way of growing the lattice-like lace structure.
Suzanne Lee is also part of the Textile Futures Research Centre, where she has developed another textile growth technique which relies on bacteria in a sugary green tea solution that spin microfibrils of pure cellulose during fermentation, entitled BioCouture. These thin cellulose fibres form a dense skin layer on top of the liquid that can be harvested and dried.
Such collaborations look set to continue as a new initiative called The Textile Toolbox launches next week between MISTRA future fashion and the Textiles Environment Design at Chelsea Art School. The portal will provide an open innovation platform for designers and experts to engage with and foster new ideas for sustainable textiles and fashion, weaving paths for the future of fabrics.