The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, second to the oil industry. It accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and untreated toxic waste water from factories being dumped directly into the rivers. With advancements in technology and the integration of biology in the fashion industry designers/and or companies are trying to be environmentally friendly. One way of becoming more sustainable is by having clothes that contain living materials and that work with the body.
Rosie Broadhead has made clothing made from bacteria that reduces body odour, encourages cell renewal and improves the immune system, when activated by sweat. The live probiotic bacteria are put into the fibres of a leotard-like garment, in specific areas where the body usually sweats most. The effects of the bacteria mean that the clothes are washed less often and people don’t need to use harsh chemicals to deodorise.
Biologic is a project by teams from MIT Media Lab and the Royal College of Art who have created a material which uses bacteria to make clothes into a ‘bio-skin’. The fabric is complied of small flaps on which the microorganism Bacillus Subtilis has been printed onto. This enables the flaps to contract when the user is sweating, which therefore opens the holes on the fabric. This expansion and contraction works with the user, enabling optimal temperature and breathability at all times.
Modern Meadow is a biotech company that has developed an animal free biological leather. This is done by extracting engineered DNA in yeast cells, creating proteins that it then uses as building blocks. It can arrange the proteins to give the material specific traits developing on the intended application. It can also be created in liquid form, meaning it can be printed into different shapes and onto different materials.
Fashion is the industry which is starting to become more experimental with these types of innovations. Although many of these projects are seen as speculative or unfeasible, the technology is becoming more accepted and readily available. Within the next 10 years we can expect bio-integrated design to be much more mainstream, with fashion bringing it into the mass market.