London-based fashion designer Suzanne Lee is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Fashion & Textiles at the at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She is also the founder and creative director of Bio-Couture, where her work centers around the production and manipulation of sustainable biomaterial textiles. Suzanne is exploring ways to grow cellulose material using a common fermentation method that combines a simple sweet tea solution with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast to brew kombucha. This symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (“SCOBY“) naturally produces microbial cellulose.
What’s so great about cellulose? It is Earth’s most common organic material and serves as the basis of many plant-based fibers used for textiles like linen, cotton, and hemp. Cotton itself is comprised of almost 95% cellulose. However, cotton is becoming increasingly more expensive to produce and has a significant negative impact on the environment. According to the IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, about 10% of all agricultural chemicals used worldwide are processed by the cotton sector. While there is growing demand for sustainable organic cotton, the market remains relatively small and the organization is still in the midst of an uphill battle making sustainable organic cotton a mainstream standard.