Suzanne Lee Grows Her Own BioCouture Bomber Jackets

<p>Make room in the flowerbed (and your closet) for Suzanne Lee&#8217;s bio-engineered textiles.</p>

“Bio Bomber Jacket”

Suzanne Lee has been experimenting with a new approach to textile manufacturing—growing it. The process is simple: take some green tea, sugar, microbes, a little time and voila—you’ve got the base for your very own home-grown fabric. When you combine the materials together they form a static culture, so there’s no spinning, weaving or printing involved, you just sit back and watch it grow.

What’s actually happening is that the microorganisms eat the sugar from the tea as the mixture ferments, spinning tiny fibers made of pure cellulose in the process. Eventually they stick together into layers and form a mat on the surface. After a week, the “fabric” sheet should be about an inch thick.

The sheet is then dried and cut or shaped and molded into clothes and accessories. (See photos of a tote bag in process over at at Designboom.) Though you may be relying on the complexity of biology to form your clothing, the technology presents some green advantages. It’s efficient because you only grow as much material as you need. Sick of the biodegradable look? Just toss it in the compost.

Back in 2010 we showcased the first creation from BioCouture, Lee’s UK-based fashion research project. Since then, her use of the translucent, leather-like material has become edgier, like in the super cool "Bio Biker Jacket."

She has also swayed more conceptual with "Scar Bodice," playing with the material's eerie skin-like appearance. The patterns, which resemble scars, were inspired by African tribal markings. The shape of the beans that were used to make the patterns resemble the shapes of the microbes that made the cellulose and are, in Lee’s words, like “ghosts of the nanofibril factories that spun the cloth.”

And if you're more of the all-American green technology loving person then the "Bio Denim Jacket" may be for you. As Lee doesn't like using chemicals, the jacket was dipped in indigo to achieve the deep blue hue.

So do you think there's commercial potential for bio-engineered materials? Would you wear these? To learn more about Suzanne Lee's boundary-pushing fashion experiments and her creative and scientific processes, watch her TED Talk below.

Suzanne Lee’s works are now on display as part of the “Power of Making” exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England up through January 2, 2012.