A photosynthetic-coated jacket from Post Carbon Lab. Source:SCMP
The term “fast-fashion” was first coined in the 1980s but has exploded into consumer consciousness in recent years, along with critical new awareness about greenwashing -defined as conveying a false image of sustainability. Alongside garment quality and fair pay for workers, a key criterion in assessing a fashion brand’s genuine commitment to sustainability and ethics is their use of materials.
From recycled polyester to mushroom leather, major high street names as well as new independents are now seeking green materials. More recently however, ground-breaking biotechnology has taken sustainable textiles to a new level. London’s Post Carbon Lab is creating garments which grow and breathe like plants. Clothing is coated in a zero-waste microbial dye which will then photosynthesize. This means it will absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. The “living layer” on the textile has massive potential. A treated T-shirt, for example, is able to take in as much carbon dioxide as a 6-year old tree in just six weeks. The effectiveness of the garment to take in carbon dioxide depends on customer care. Garments are not machine washable and need access to light – either natural or artificial.
“It’s radical because it requires an adjustment in mentality and behaviour by the consumer…They have to adopt a caretaker role. But we’ve developed the coating so it responds to artificial light and only needs a little moisture – you can hang it up after you shower and the humidity will be enough,” - Co-founder Dian-Jen Lin
Post Carbon Lab is not alone in recognising the amazing potential of cyanobacteria and algae. T tech firm, Vollebak has created a T-shirt entirely from woodpulp and algae, which will break down in soil or a composter in 3 months. Meanwhile, designer Suzanne Lee coined the term “biocouture” in 2003 and has created a series of showcase pieces from high heels to the “Biobomber jacket”.
“Through an engagement with biology I’m really excited about how we can think about organisms like microbes as the factories of the future,” says Lee. “What most people know BioCouture for is a series of garments that were grown using bacteria. So the fibres, the material itself and the formation of the garment has been done by a microbe rather than a plant.” – Suzanne Lee, BioCouture
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