A closer look into the current biotechnological revolution that will transform the fashion industry and the impact the industry has on the environment.
Materials grown and engineered from live microorganisms are redefining materials, manufacturing, sustainability, even the design process.
Up until now, sustainable efforts have had issues closing the loop in a circular model. Most sustainable options still face numerous tradeoffs, for instance being emission intensive, environmentally degrading, using sources from mono-cropping, relying on petroleum-based sources, etc.
The combination of biology and lab processes to grow materials will fundamentally solve the problem of creating a truly circular material. Doing this by transforming organic raw materials into beautifully biofabricated textiles, nonwovens, and dyes, while maintaining durability, performance, and consumer interest.
The structure, thickness, color, and texture of the finished material can all be programmed into the DNA of the cells of the microorganisms. This can expand to create seamless forms and even embed closures. Making the possibilities limitless.
See below on products in development and some currently in the market.
[ MICROORGANISMS FROM ]
+ Animal Cells
[ ISOLATED TERMS ]
Gram-positive bacteria: bacteria resulting in positive test on the Gram stain test, used to classify bacteria into two categories based on the type of cell wall. A gram-positive bacteria has a thicker peptidoglycan layer, that retains a violet stain after washed from the sample.
Mycelium: the mass of white filaments(hyphae) branching from the vegetative part of the fungus.
Hyphae: the web filamentous structure of a fungus. Collectively called mycelium.
Actinobacteria: a phylum of gram-positive bacteria, that contributes to decomposing organic matter of dead organism so the molecules can be taken up anew.
Streptomyces: one of the largest genus of Antinobacteria. Forming a threadlike net called a mycelium, producing spores. Over 500 species have been described. Predominantly found in soil and decaying vegetation.
Ideonella sakaiensis - bacterium with the capability of breaking down and metabolizing plastic PET fiber, synthetic fiber garments. Creating a viable bioremediation strategy.
Streptomyces coelicolor: produces pink to red prodignine molecules and the soluble molecule actinorhodin.
Mycorestoration: ability of using fungi to restore ecosystems and degraded environments.
Saccharification: the process of breaking down complex carbohydrates, such as sugar cane, into monosaccharide components.
Janthinkobacterium lividum: soil dwelling bacteria, that produces shades of purple (Volacein).
Arthrobacter Agilis: a psychrotrophic bacterium, that produces shades of reds.
Micrococcus Leteus: is a gram positive saprotrophic bacterium, producing pigments of yellows.
[ OVERALL BENEFITS ]
+ Programmable structure, thickness, color, and texture
+ Removes many chemical processes
+ Significantly lower water usage
+ Low energy usage
+ Precise material usage, no material waste
+ As the industry scales up, this will be more cost-effective than the pollutant alternative
+ Eliminates the need for animals and grazing
+ Ability to create facilities closer to the final destination
+ Durable and high performing fabrics
+ Can unlock adaptive color dying
+ Can use waste, such as wood chips, for fuel
+ Biodegradability and compostable, benefiting the land when disposed
+ Potentially carbon negative
+ Lab replication set up near end destination
+ Engineering allows endless possibilities
[ INDUSTRY LEADERS IN BIOTECH ]
Introduced a new class of material, a water-resistant leather alternative. Creating the first Fine Mycelium™ material, Reishi™, a material on par with and even surpassing the finest luxurious leather.
Creators of Brewed Protein™ materials produced through a fermentation process that utilizes sugars and microbes, instead of petrochemical or animal-derived raw materials.
Produces high-quality silk biopolymers for use in textile products, medical devices, and cosmetics. Producer of Biosteel® fibers.
Makers of ZOA™, a family of animal-free, plant-derived biofabricated materials. Using a solvent-free process is anticipated to use less water than conventional synthetic material production.
Developer of S.Café®, including the product Airmem, containing 26% of coffee oil extracted from spent coffee grounds, the membrane is aimed to replace petroleum-based materials.
+ Bolt Threads
Materials solution company, creating bioengineered products from spider silk and mycelium: Mylo™, Microsilk™, B-Silk™ Protein.
A biotech open-source research project exploring natural textile dyeing with bacteria that produce pigment.
Designs materials based on bacterial cellulose to make leather substitutes, substitute fibers for cotton, and wood-based viscose, bioplastics, and composites.
[ BIBLIOGRAPHY ]
Chimileski , Scott. “Bacterial Dyes in Fashion.” ASM.org, 4 Nov. 2017, asm.org/Articles/2017/November/bacterial-dyes-in-fashion.
Fernández, Clara Rodríguez. “How Biotech Is Changing The Way We Make Clothes.” Labiotech.eu, 25 Feb. 2020, www.labiotech.eu/industrial/biofabrication-fashion-industry/.
Palmer, Helen. “Are Organic Fabrics with Bacteria the Future of Sustainable Fashion?” WGSN Insider, WGSN, 11 Sept. 2020, www.wgsn.com/blogs/are-organic-fabrics-with-bacteria-the-future-of-sustainable-fashion/.
Wielgus, K., et al. “Bioengineered Natural Textile Fibres.” Handbook of Natural Fibres, Woodhead Publishing, 27 Mar. 2014, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9781845696979500102.