The fashion industry is in crisis. With estimates of fashion brands doubling their production and the equivalent of a truckload of clothes being burned every second, a radical change is needed.
Undoubtedly elevated levels of consumption are problematic, the types of materials that clothing is made from need to be considered. Much fashion clothing is made from cheap, durable synthetic fibres (e.g., polyester) which offers versatility in an ever-changing aesthetic landscape. However, polyester is environmentally polluting in its production, use, and at end-of-life; it can take up to 200 years for polyester clothing to biodegrade. In the fashion industry, natural fibres (e.g., cotton, wool) are heavily processed with synthetic chemicals, causing similar environmental issues.
‘Next-generation’ materials, made from novel sources (e.g., bacteria, fungi) have been developed to have minimum impact during manufacture, use, and end of life disposal. However, none have yet reached the mass market due to issues with both manufacture and performance in line with modern consumer demands.
Bacterial cellulose (BC) has shown promise as a ‘next-gen’ material. Some BC physical properties, e.g., abrasion resistance, are useful in garment applications, but others, e.g., hydrophilicity, may inhibit its adoption for fashion clothing.
This project aims to examine the dynamic between production techniques and product performance that could be used to render BC a viable alternative in fashion applications, without compromising low environmental impact characteristics.