Biodesign Here Now opened last night to a captive audience of designers, architects, manufacturers and enthusiasts who were treated to the first edition of the Biodesign Fashion Show, held at Opencell London. Presenting accessories and clothing from designers and makers whose work is part of the exhibition from 19th-21st September, the show was a window into the materials and aesthetics of the near and far future.
Part of London Design Festival, this launch event and fashion show included a keynote from biomaterial and design veteran Suzanne Lee, who spoke about the impact this sector is having now, and what the future is likely to bring. Having spent well over a decade working on biomaterial and biodesign innovations at Biocouture, Modern Meadow, and now Biofabricate, she summed up the potential sustainable advantages of this sector, along with the significant challenges of scaling these new material solutions. The challenges include the vast amounts of funding and development time needed, which pose significant difficulties when seeking to meet the material needs of fast-moving industries like fashion.
In the fashion show following Lee’s keynote, designers presented bio-based accessories including biodegradable biopolymer flowers by Carolyn Raff developed from algae and agar, using rapidly renewable raw materials from the sea. Lina Nurk and Jonas Johansson’s vegan and biodegradable textiles were like an embroidered second skin, along with Silvio Tinello’s fungi bio agglomerate and bacterial cellulose bags. Rosie Broadhead is exploring embedding healthy bacteria into textiles for enhanced wellbeing through skin absorption and presented a bodysuit proof-of-concept. Denimaize is redesigning denim using wasted corn husks to extract the cellulose fibers, and spinning them with flax.
Two designers created bio couture, presenting entire collections utilising hand-craft techniques driven by biological processes of lichen and mycelium growth. I have written about Piero D’Angelo’s prospective lichen fashion (article here) in the past, but last night D’Angelo presented his first entire collection, which proved a refreshing follow-up to London Fashion Week, which while commercial and brilliantly creative in many ways, isn’t proposing such radical ways to reimagine fashion for a future fraught with ecological fragility and scarcity of resources. His pieces were crafted delicately but the result was bold in terms of texture, colour, and structure.
Aurelie Fontan uses scraps from the automotive and upholstery industries to repurpose and extend the life and visual interest of the materials, by exploring how they can be blended with mycelium. Still in its early stages, the majority of her collection showed dexterity with scraps that concealed the fact that these materials were less than perfect when she received them.
Both Fontan and D’Angelo are residents of Open Cell, the biodesign lab with flexible and accessible space for experimentation to support designers, makers, and scientists as they tackle the challenges of developing sustainable solutions to our myriad of material problems.
Sustainability and Design
As the dialogue around climate change intensifies and we grow more anxious about finding solutions, the work of those on show at Biodesign Here Now offers optimism, inspiration, catalysis and hopefully scaling and adoption of the new solutions being presented. If you want to know what’s happening in Biodesign, and to see the edge of where materials are right now, with a view to what’s coming next, catch the exhibition from 19th-21st September at Open Cell, Shepherd’s Bush. See the programme of talks on 20th September here. Entry is free.