Future Fashion Trends: High-Tech, Lab-Grown Biological Textiles

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The fashion trends of the future could involve living, growing textiles, or even accessories implanted into our bodies.

By 2082, couture will be made not from fabric, but from cells. That’s the vision of designer Amy Congdon, whose Biological Atelier project explores how the same sort of medical biotechnology set to revolutionize skin grafts and prosthetics can be carried over into the world of fashion. In fact, her idea is pretty similar to the controversial effort to grow meat in a lab so no animal has to be harmed, and test-tube leather. Cultured ivory bracelets or cruelty-free cross-species fur, anyone?

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Congdon’s Extinct Collection uses a sort of embroidery ‘scaffolding’ upon which cells can be grown—whether plant, animal or mineral. The idea is that in the future, fashion trends could be grown from the ultimate commodity: life itself. Congdon aims to explore the ethical issues surrounding this sort of manipulation of life, and the seemingly sci-fi concept of integrating and implanting fashion and technology right into our own bodies.

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Considering the social and environmental impact of the textile industry, even the most unlikely sounding ideas deserve a good look – and while Biological Atelier is intended for bespoke luxury garments, similar technology could possibly be used on a wider scale. When grown in a lab or made from waste materials rather than farmed, biological-based textiles could potentially replace fabrics made from unsustainable materials, like polyester – as long as they don’t require too much chemical manipulation in the process.

One admittedly weird example is fabric grown in a soup of green tea, sugar and other nutrients, which bacteria then transform into long cellulose filaments that can be woven once dried. Scientists have also managed to produce a fabric by letting microbes go to work on wine, fermenting the alcohol into fibers. A similar process turns proteins from spoiled milk into fabric. Unfortunately, none of these weird new bio-textiles smell too pretty, but researchers are already working on eliminating that problem.

Related on Ecosalon:

Fiber Watch: Will the Fashion World Embrace Test Tube Leather?

Fabrics Made from Tea?

Stephanie Rogers

Stephanie Rogers currently resides in North Carolina where she covers a variety of green topics, from sustainability to food.