Suzanne Lee's motto is: "Imagine if we could grow fabric." A Senior Research Fellow at London's highly regarded Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, she's discovered a way to make clothing out of bacterial cellulose using modern science and old fashioned hand stitching, a process she calls "biocouture." More playfully, she calls her process "how to grow a frock."
The cellulose fabric, which looks like human skin, can be molded and sewn. Lee uses fruits and vegetables like blueberries, beetroot, and other natural products to stain the fabrics with handmade patterns and designs.
The jacket, above, looks like it has an amazing lightness to it, but in fact, it's very heavy and not easy to stretch. Now, because of the many challenges of working with this material, Lee is starting to collaborate with the chemical engineering and synthetic biology departments at Imperial College of London to try to make the material lighter and more pliable.
According to Lee, the striking bodice, above, "...was constructed by applying a pattern of dried beans to a wooden body form and allowing the wet cellulose material to dry down onto it. It took about a week before it could be lifted off. I then sewed in a conventional zip fastening (as yet there is no biodegradable alternative)."
The bodice is part of a show at the ModeMuseum in Hasselt, Belgium called, Alter Nature: The Future that Never Was, which showcases designers working with innovative materials and processes to address social and environmental concerns. The show runs through June 5, 2011.