The rise of sustainability has prompted many fashion brands to take action to create innovation centers internally or through external collaboration. Thanks to innovation and R&D, new futures for creating, scaling, and distributing amazing, technically engineered materials are possible.
One of the main problems facing the research and development of biodesign materials is the time required to produce a patented outcome that can be mass-produced. Many innovation projects developing materials are in an experimental phase and do not always find the support of manufacturing companies or investors to keep the research going.
Associating fashion with biological techniques and the possibility of experimenting through unusual materials and processes is not entirely new, although, in the past, the focus was on performance presentations and subversive art.
Designers such as Hussein Chalayan or Martin Margiela had experimented with the interaction of bacteria in fabrics, by burying them underground to decompose. Proof of this is “The Tangent Flows”, Chalayan’s first collection after leaving CSM, also the exhibition entitled Maison Martin Margiela’s 9/4/1615, at Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in 1997.
Regardless of these artistic claims, the last decade has been crucial and revolutionary in projects that seek to push experimentation to the limit, taking into account factors such as commercial viability and scalable business models.
There is some confusion and misinformation regarding recycled fibers, regenerated fibers, biofabrics, and faux materials, since not every material has the same qualities. Just because some material has “organic” or “bio” in its description, does not mean that it is better than other technologies. Each technique and composition allude to a type of experimentation and unique technological development.
It is logical to think that a new type of innovative material would force many fashion brands into rethinking the production system and the process involved in developing a fashion collection.
The popularization of biofabrication has captured the attention of many designers around the world.
Biodesign is “a design practice that intertwines biology and design, employing living organisms such as algae, bacteria, and fungi to synergistically develop materials and products”.
Over the last decade, biodesign research projects and consolidated companies have accelerated the translation of ideas and experimental prototypes into consumer products.
Researchers D’Olivo and Karana in Materials Framing: A Case Study of Biodesign Companies’ Web Communications identified three main categories: material origins, fabrication process, material outcomes, as means to operationalize materials framing thinking in biodesign. They analyzed how biodesign companies communicate and currently frame new materials generated from living organisms, and their variations depending on their nature.
“By improving knowledge and skills for introducing new materials to consumer markets, biodesign companies will evolve their ability to shorten the uptake period of innovative materials from living organisms and cultivate widespread acceptance”, the authors stated.
There are successful cases and biodesign companies that are changing the market landscape. For example, Mylo, made from mycelium —a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae from mushrooms. Mylo is soft, supple, and less harmful to the environment, a sustainable alternative to leather. The innovative material is made possible by the world-class scientists and engineers at Bolt Threads.
According to Lyst 2022 predictions, in the last three months interest in consumer goods containing the keyword “mushroom” has increased by 37%. From Hermès betting on eco-alternatives to Stella McCartney that dedicated her SS 22 collection to mushrooms, it seems biodesign is finally having a moment inside design studios. There are other biodesign companies worth knowing such as Orange Fiber, Mycotex, Ecovative Design, Algiknit, and Kapok, to mention a few.
The sustainable approach is here to stay and it is essential to keep innovation at its highest level to do less harm to nature and to keep the environmental impact of the fashion industry under control.
Originally published at: ELLE Education Business > https://elle.education/en/business/fashion-material-revolution-from-biodesign-to-innovative-sustainable-materials/