Harvest: A biotextile future

Brough, Dean, Payne, Alice, & Musk, Peter (2015) Harvest: A biotextile future. [Design/Architectural Work]

Valise (Image: JPEG 1MB)
exhibition image.
Image credit: Dean Brough
Handbag and clutch (Image: JPEG 14MB)
exhibition image.
Image credit: Dean Brough
Briefcase (Image: JPEG 2MB)
exhibition image.
Image credit: Dean Brough

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  • Description of the work

Harvest: A biotextile future consists of four bags constructed from kombucha, each utilizing a different approach to this material. The kombucha material is a byproduct of the fermented green tea, kombucha, and is comprised of a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) that forms a fast growing curd or pellicle on the surface of the tea. This pellicle is harvested, washed, and dried to make a material with characteristics that can range between leather and paper in handle. The pellicle is one hundred per cent cellulose, with the individual fibres growing together to produce a durable and strong non-woven textile. Techniques explored with the dry kombucha material include folding, stitching, and laser etching. The final bags were designed with reference to classic tropes of fashion accessories: the briefcase, the clutch, the valise and the handbag. The valise included three jars in which the kombucha was displayed as ‘growing’ within the bag.

  • Research Background

This work sits within an emerging field of practice in which fashion design intersects with biotechnology. Designers such as Suzanne Lee have explored constructing garments from bacteria byproducts, and bio-artists Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr have created ‘victimless leather’ grown from cultured cells. Although still speculative, these collaborations between science and design point to new material applications for fashion. Our work contributes to this area through testing both the growing of the textile and its application to construct durable fashion artefacts.

  • Research Contribution

Harvest: A biotextile future makes two contributions to new knowledge in the area of design for sustainability within fashion. The first contribution lies in extending the technical experimentation required to grow and manipulate the textile. For the briefcase, the pattern shape was ‘grown’ into the required shape, using a shaped container. Other techniques used in the bags included weaving, folding and laser etching the material to extend its functional and decorative properties. Experimentation with the growing and drying of the material led to the production of a wide range of physical properties, in which the material was more brittle or flexible as required.

The second research contribution lies in the proposal of this material for use in durable fashion accessories. The material is still speculative and small-scale in production, however the four bags illustrate the potential for kombucha as a biodegradable alternative to leather or synthetic materials.

  • Research Significance

This interplay of science and design research opens up an exploration for a speculative future of sustainable, biodegradable textiles using live bacteria to enable ‘homegrown’ vegan apparel. The collaborators on this project include scientist Peter Musk and fashion designers Alice Payne and Dean Brough. Harvest: A biotextile future was exhibited at the State Library of Queensland’s Asia Pacific Design Library, 1-5 November 2015, as part of The International Association of Societies of Design Research’s (IASDR) biannual design conference. The work was chosen for display by a panel of experts, based on the criteria of design innovation and contribution to new knowledge in design.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 93547
Item Type: Creative Work (Design/Architectural Work)
Refereed: No
Material: Kombucha
Number of Pieces: 4
Location: From date: To date:
International Association of Societies of Design Research (IASDR) conference exhibition, Asia Pacific Design Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane 2015-11-01 2015-11-04
Keywords: kombucha, fashion design, textile, sustainability
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > DESIGN PRACTICE AND MANAGEMENT (120300) > Textile and Fashion Design (120306)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 The Author(s)
Deposited On: 08 Mar 2016 01:22
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2016 23:11

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