How A Fashion Designer Is Growing Leather In A Science Lab

by Marissa Dubecky

Turns out when you mix tea and sugar, you can get more than a sweet drink. 10 years ago, fashion designer Suzanne Lee and biologist David Hepworth combined the same yeast and bacteria microbes found in kombucha juice with tea and sucrose, and the result was the creation of a fabric akin to leather.

So what did this mean for the fashion world? Well, by introducing microbiology into consumer production, researchers can find sustainable ways to manufacture the materials used in clothing. This might sound bizarre, but when you recognize the socially irresponsible way the fashion industry currently works, Lee’s method makes a lot more sense. Harmful dyes, inhumane working conditions, overuse of resources, and the mass production of clothing items frequently retired to landfills means the present fashion chain is toxic from start to finish. Lee’s goals would alter reliance on the practices, taking important strides towards a greener future. 

In her effort to spark a material revolution, Lee created the research project BioCouture, which unites biologists and fashion brands in their production of clothing. The goal is sustainability, but the result is also some killer fashion items. Check out a few of Lee’s pieces (that were literally grown in a lab) below:

And you can see the basics of how they’re made (and even try it yourself) below:

Images via Buddha Jeans, Pop Sci,

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