Suzanne Lee is a senior research fellow at Central St. Martins who's interest in innovative future fashion has led to the pioneering research and creation of a range of Cellulose Couture; an experiment that marries scientific discovery to design. We discuss the term Eco- friendly fashion, growing dresses in test tubes and gimmick trends within today’s fast fashion market.
So what is Cellulose Couture and how does the discovery benefit the environment and future forms of clothing? In short, bacterial cellulose is the only alternative to plant cellulose and as the world's forest resources deplete, so too do the natural resources and fibres. In this respect, bacterial cellulose is the key material to preservation of our natural resources. Yet is this a little too scientific for fashion?
Lee speaks passionately of her project with material scientist, Dr. David Hepworth:
" Within my project I worked with genetic engineers to create cellulose, to engineer microbes and orientate fibres.''
" We then began to think of a textile material that we could imagine making. We looked towards new ways of making a dress and thought, its the 21st century, lets grow a dress in the lab!"
Yet when broached on the notion of bacterial cellulose penetrating high street fashion, Lee becomes dubious, " The fact is that this material is pure cellulose and potentially a new fibre."
" I don't want to play that game and I certainly don't want to be a gimmick. What is a market? We produce garments and throw them away tomorrow."
So what does Lee hope to see in the sustainable designs of the future? " I am always excited by textile students and they have an opportunity to replace the fast fashion card; we are a long way from having sexy, well made, and ethically sourced clothing lines but that is not to say it is impossible. The whole picture of the product is the garment's complete life cycle and not just when it has left Topshop."