Designer Profile: Suzanne Lee

Originally published March 13, 2011

I love this lady, a woman after my own heart. What could be more amazing than growing clothes by means of bacteria.
 

 

I posted pictures from Gary Harvey's 2007 collection and I do adore the newspaper dress but I also feel like that collection perpetuates the stereotype of what eco-fashion can look like, which is not the most fashionable clothing sometime - most of the time when it first evolved. I completely appreciate and agree with the idea of reusing clothing and re-making clothes into something new, but I do think that it should look like it has not been made from used clothing. Whenever I have designed a 're-made' piece, to me the challenge is in making it appear new; that you can never tell it's been pieced together from old clothes.

 

I would like to swing the pendulum to the extreme opposite and showcase Suzanne Lee who has developed Biocouture. This Central St. Martins graduate is growing clothes. Gluconacetobacter xylinus, (previously known as Acetobacter xylinum), spins a cellulose material when immersed in a vat of green tea and glucose. 

 

The fabric takes around 2-4 weeks to grow into a thickness that is usable. At this point it is dried and either cut and sewn in a traditional methodology or can be shaped over a wooden form. Once it has dried, the material feels like either paper or vegetable leather depending on treatment methods.

 


The clothes are not commercially available yet, but have been on display in various galleries/museums. The process is still in development to increase its durability. Suzanne has also been experimenting with different dye methods, such as the use of fruit and vegetable dyes to keep the process as toxic free as possible. At this stage the fermentation liquid can also be partially recycled.

the designer at work

the designer at work

cross sectional view of cellulose growing

cross sectional view of cellulose growing

traditionally sewn jackets

traditionally sewn jackets

bodices formed by placing over a bustform, pattern created by beans

bodices formed by placing over a bustform, pattern created by beans

anika kozlowski