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Project Runway meets the lab: Creating clothing from bacterial cellulose

British fashion designer Suzanne Lee has taken the idea of sustainable clothing to an entirely new level. Her BioCouture project aims to create apparel using fabric made from bacterial cellulose. Lee presented on her project yesterday at the TED conference. Wired reports:

The fermentation process that produces bacterial cellulose is similar to that which produces kombucha, an ancient tea drink valued for health-inducing qualities.

The bacteria spins tiny threads of pure cellulose which, over weeks, come together in layers that form a mass on the surface of the liquid. It takes two to three weeks to produce an inch-thick layer. Once the water is evaporated, sheets of dried material remain that can be cut into patterns and sewn conventionally or, while still wet, can be formed around a 3D mold - such as a mannequin or a lamp or bowl - to take the shape of the object.

In this video filmed prior to TED, Lee discuses the process of growing fabric from fermented yeast and microbes as well as some of the challenges of working with the material.

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