The Future of Fashion / / by Sarah Graham

Sarah Graham is an MA Material Futures student from Canada, studying at Central Saint Martins in London. At the intersection of craft, science and technology, Material Futures is dedicated to exploring how we will live in the future...

Skin II - Rosie Broadhead

Coming from a background in fashion design, I am interested in how the process of biomineralization can be implemented into the fashion industry. Being one of the most polluting and exploiting industries, my aim is to address some of its issues through material and systems design. New material development needs to look holistically at the system it is functioning within and be a source of change not just for the final output of material but for the way it looks at end-of-life, waste, and the by-products created in tandem.

There is a growing number of designers venturing into the realm of ‘bio-design’ and opportunities to blend the lines between art and science are ever growing. Faber Futures, a London based biodesign agency, has been working to develop industrial applications for Streptomyces coelocolor in dying processes to reduce toxins and water usage during fabric processing. They worked with Ginkgo Bioworks in Boston, USA to create a pigment extract of S.coelicolor to donate to the Forbes Pigment Collection.

Calcite on fabric

Biogarmentry by Roya Aghighi and UBC in Vancouver, Canada, and Skin II by Material Futures Alumni Rosie Broadhead, both created fabrics with embedded living microorganisms. Biogarmentry created a biodegradable textile that actively photosynthesises to purify the air around the wearer and challenge the relationship we currently have with our clothing. Skin II has integrated live bacteria into the fibres of clothing to reduces body odour, encourage cell renewal and improve the immune system, when activated by sweat.

Biogarmentry - Roya Aghighi

I am interested in exploring how bacteria can be used to metabolize waste products into utilizable materials, targeting neglected resources, such as urine. After reading about the calcite precipitating bacteria Sporosarcina pasteurii being used to create biocement and bricks I became curious as to how I could engage with these microbes in my work.

I reached out to Dr. Megan Barnett of the British Geological Survey for some expert advice on my project and she invited me down to BGS to work with her in the microbiology lab for a few days. Dr. Barnett has been nothing short of amazing! She has offered her knowledge, her time and her resources, and working with her has been very exciting. We experimented with processes of calcite precipitation with S. pasteurii and with colour by addition of iron oxides and bacteria pigments. We then explored non-urease induced precipitation with Synechocystis and will continue to investigate different biomineralizing microbes and the potential for implementation in design.

Sarah is exploring ways of using biomineralisation with 3D printing

My goal for this project is to have a material library for a range of coloured minerals that can be shaped and finished into a durable material suitable for manufacturing, and a precise process that can be implemented by companies effectively and affordably.

By showing people the unique capabilities of microbes, I hope to create a greater sense of importance towards an invisible biome while also re-evaluating what we consider waste to be and creating a more circular economy to benefit everyone.

Interdisciplinary collaborations breed exciting and unique ideas, I recommend joining forces with a designer or artist and see what you can do!

Further reading:
Faber Futures
Roya Ahjighi - Biogarmentry
Dezeen - Rosie Broadhead