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How Biomaterials are Changing the Future of Fashion

At No Kill Mag, we are constantly looking for upcoming trends in fashion and sustainability. From electroactive fabrics to laser cut dresses there is always something new to discover. And we’re currently obsessed with Biomaterials, specifically the new and small designers working with them.  What are biomaterials? Well, typically, they’re used in the medical field. Still, these designers are making new materials that positively interact with the biological world.  We’re talking biodegradable, air-filtering, magical materials that are making their way into our closets.

 

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Carolyn Raff is a designer best known for her algae bioplastic, creating bio-based and biodegradable sequins made from algae.  She is a freelance material and textile designer based in Stuttgart. She created a sustainable design tool named Cradle 2 Cradle. Cradle 2 Cradle helps designers understand where material and goods come from and go in to help them make conscious decisions on what they’re using and where a product goes at the end of its life.  When it comes to the fashion industry, this is major for resource usage and controlling and regulating the flow of fabric and clothing waste going into landfills.


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Hannah Elisabeth Jones is an artist and designer working with biomaterials and organic color.  Before receiving the Burberry Design Scholarship to study MA Textiles at the Royal College of Art in 2017, Jones invented a patent-pending material, BioMarble, at Manchester School of Art.  Made from paper waste, BioMarble has a unique texture and surface pattern. Hannah Elisabeth Jones uses patchwork and geometric shapes to create quilted art from this material. She also created BioScreen II, a bioplastic made from agar and carrageenan dyed with indigo chlorophyllin.   We cant wait to see how she continues to work and evolve BioMarble and BioScreen II and what that might look like in the fashion industry.


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Jen Keane is a biodesigner who’s transformed bacteria into the fabric.  Yes, you read that correctly, Bacteria.  Co-Founder of Modern Synthesis, a London based biomaterial company, Keane created a process of “microbial weaving” by manipulating bacteria found in kombucha, also known as k. Rhaeticus. Not only is it innovative, but this synthetic fiber is also stronger than steel and more resistant than Kevlar, which is what they use in bullet-proof vests.  We can’t believe bacteria could be transformed into something that strong! Keane has even used this new process to create “grown” sneakers. While this material is crazy strong, it’s also incredibly lightweight.


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Last year Scarlett Yang, a graduate from Centeral Saint Martins, used algae extract and silk cocoon protein to create a glass-like dress that grows over time and can decompose in water within 24 hours. Factors like Temperature and Humidity can affect the shape of this dress, so it looks completely different depending on where it’s worn. The dress will begin to biodegrade after being exposed to water, a process that can take only a few hours.  We are obsessed with Yang’s designs and her perspective on the fleeting nature of runway fashion and event wear.  Creating a piece of beautiful wearable art that is unique and genuinely temporary, purposefully made to only be worn once.


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Alice Potts is working with scraps and sweat, no seriously sweat!  Her most recent work includes athleticwear covered in crystals grown from sweat.  Potts has even created bioplastic sequins made from petals, vegetable scraps, and other natural waste.  These embellishments challenge how we see waste and create stunning biomaterials for clothing and accessories.  The pandemic actually pushed Potts to work with local biomaterials more substantially since she couldn’t go out and experiment with algae. We’re excited to see what Alice will continue to create in the future!

We’re going to keep our eyes out for more designers working with these unique biomaterials.  Who wouldn’t love a dress or set of earrings made from materials that not only biodegrade but positively impact the planet? We hope to see more one wear only, biodegradable gowns like Scarlett Yang’s work on the red carpet and at major events. Small designers and transparent brands are resetting how we make clothing, but watch out because even in the new biomaterials market there’s greenwashing.  Oil and Chemical Companies such as DOW are labeling and branding their newest cellulose-based plastics as new “biomaterials”.  The chemical process used to create these fibers and material creates a mass amount of waste and the final product itself is a non-biodegradable plastic. As we see more designers using and creating these new biomaterials, we also have to keep an eye out for those making a difference vs major brands trying to save face.

–Julie Klein


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