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In its early stages the ongoing project BIOmatters asked key questions of - Will manipulating bacteria become a new way of crafting and producing textiles in 2050+? Can bacteria be programmed to grow pre-embellished/printed materials? At the beginning the project comprised of a series of speculative works in the form of samples and photographic fictions, all part of a hypothetical Biotextile lab where a textile designer of the future is at work. The fictional photographs are a two-part series, the first four titled ‘BIOstitch #1, #2, #3 and #4’ comprise of a future textile designer working in a hybrid environment. The images present a workspace that is somewhere between lab and design studio, where the subject engages with reviewing, testing and draping biomaterials. The lab is developing materials for the fashion and textile industry through the reprogramming of bacteria utilising synthetic biology as a living technology to reprogramme the bacteria to produced pre-embellished and pre-dyed biomaterials in engineered patterns.


The second part of the series is a series of samples currently under development by the lab titled ‘Client Samples #1, #2 and #3’ and ‘Biovoré’. Each sample is an experiment with time consuming, toxic and harmful existing processes of embellishment and decoration to fabric. ‘Biovoré’ for example is an experiment to try and create devoré velvet without using the usual chemical processes of sodium hydrogen sulphate which gives of a lot of nasty fumes when dissolving cellulose based fibres. This synbio process would take away the need for such chemical use as the bacteria would be programmed to grow the velvet pile in certain pre-programmed areas to create the pattern effect desired.


BIOmatters focused on the potential to reprogramme bacteria to grow pre-embellished/printed materials in order to bypass wasteful and harmful production methods in industry today; from the pollution of rivers with waste dye and chemicals to the unethical work conditions in print and dye factories and for home working hand embroiderers in Eastern countries.


The project aimed to highlight the current issues of the fashion and textile industry and key sustainable challenges of the 21st century, whilst proposing what course future textiles might take when developed with ‘living technology’. It aims to explore how future biomaterial speculation can inform people today, by;


  • Making the already existing link between textiles and living systems more visible for people.

  • Helping people to think about materials as living dynamic systems.

  • Instigating questioning around the way textiles are produced in the present through the proposal of speculative futures.

  • Fostering discussion around wider issues that surround the industry socially, politically and environmentally.

Design - Hannah Hansell

Photography - Hannah Hansell

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