suzanne lee: eco textile fashion suzanne lee: eco textile fashion
nov 13, 2011

suzanne lee: eco textile fashion

‘bio-biker jacket’ by suzanne lee all images courtesy of suzanne lee

works by british designer and suzanne lee of biocouture are now featured in the ‘power of making‘ exhibit by the crafts council at the victoria and albert museum in london, england. biocouture’s ‘eco-textile’ production explores the potential for regulated and industrial textile manufacturing by means of bacterial cellulose grown in a solution of sweetened tea.

the artist is able to harness the malleability

of select microbial cellulose during the fermentation of these cells to create textiles. the yeast base as well as the green tea and sugar solution are produced within her biocouture laboratory. lee first creates a green tea and sugar solution to be mixed with yeast and other microorganisms. as the introduced material begins to feed upon the green tea solution, a fine-spun cellulose thread mat grows. after the proper dimensions have been attained, the designer then dries the material, either molded over 3D forms or lain flat and cut and sewn into grown-fabric clothing.

‘bio-denim jacket’


‘bio-bomber jacket’

in her ‘scar bodice piece, the artist wanted to make a piece that looked uncannily like human skin.

‘when wet it can be formed over 3D shapes so this bodice was constructed by applying a pattern of dried beans to a wooden body form and allowing the wet cellulose material to dry down onto it. it took about a week before it could be lifted off, I then sewed in a conventional zip fastening (as yet there is no biodegradable alternative). the scarification pattern was inspired by various african tribal markings. the bean shape is similar to the (microscopic) bacteria which produce the cellulose so there’s a resonance that appeals to me, ghosts of the nanofibril factories that spun the cloth’ -suzanne lee

‘scar bodice’

for the ‘power of making’ exhibition, lee chose to model her work after a prototype bag already existing within her design portfolio. she experimented with the quality and texture of her microbial cellulose medium, striving for a leather-like appearance in its final form. the body of the bag was formed on a 3D wooden mold with metal studs adorning the parameter– this detail was added in order to influence the dried shape of the textile with the imprint and oxidation of these forms, producing a simple decorative pattern. the tote bag is intended to showcase the refined nature of modern craftsmanship, witnessed in the combination of highly-modern techniques with more traditional methods. 

the ‘tote-bag’ displayed in the ‘power of making’ exhibition at the victoria and albert museum

the tote-bag in progress, the uncovered mold featured on the left, and the right image showing the body of the piece, just after the material is lain over the frame

the work, mid way through its drying process, after the handles to the body of the piece have been attached

‘tote-bag’ after completion, being lifted from the mold

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

design news