TED fellow Suzanne Lee is writing a book called Fashioning the Future and in the process, investigating how bacteria can be the next generation’s clothes manufacturers, through the same process that gives us beer: fermentation. In an interview for TED’s blog, she explains that like Maya, whom we featured earlier on LLV, Lee wants to improve upon the current toxicity and environmental degradation that is associated with producing textiles. Lee has turned to fermentation as a source of fiber production.
So, if bacteria are producing clothes, you need to feed them, right? Right. Lee is exploring feeding bacteria with what they thrive on: sugar. Now, this sounds a little shaky and short-sighted at first, a bit like using corn for biofuels, which raises corn prices and disadvantages the poor when it comes to using corn for food. However, Lee is looking at agricultural waste materials that are sugar-rich to avoid spiking the price of sugar for her fermented clothes. Reduce impacts on the environment and close the loop? We approve!
Lee is interested in creating products that are highly functional. However, fermented shoes and accessories aren’t about to appear in your stores just yet, because much more work is needed to make such products competitive and fashionable.
Image credit: mconnors via MorgueFile