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Kombucha Leather? Time for Innovation: Order your first Kombucha Leather Jacket
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Kombucha Leather? Time for Innovation: Order your first Kombucha Leather Jacket

· · Comments

Sustainable innovation is starting fires in the fashion industry. Designers are constantly re-imagining our norms into completely sustainable concepts using products that give back as much as they take from the environment. Today, we are most interested in probiotics. Yes, probiotics!

We know what you’re thinking- how can yogurt, kombucha or pickles be clothes? Well, probiotic use doesn’t just stop at giving you a healthier gut. It can also serve as a fashion alternative, as found by some of the most creative fashion designers in the industry.

Taylor Wilson is one of those leaders.  A fashion enthusiast since birth, Taylor studied fashion textiles and biology at the University of East London. After researching ways she could make her impact in the sustainable fashion industry, she found her calling in Biomimicry. Biomimicry is the design and production of material, structures and systems that are modelled on biological entities and processes. She had found her passion and dissertation. Biomimicry in Fashion to Create Sustainable Fabrics of the Future was born.  

We were dying to know more. Leather made out of kombucha? That is exactly the excitement in sustainable fashion we love. So, we at Aequem had the chance to talk to Taylor about her progressive leaps in fashion and how the kombucha-made clothing industry works: 

Hi Taylor! So nice to meet you. Could you tell us more about "Biomimicry in Fashion to Create Sustainable Fabrics of the Future" and how kombucha leather is made?
"Yes! In my research I came across the process of growing a sustainable ‘leather’ from sugar, tea, and yeast. The same process as brewing kombucha tea. This was first done by Suzanne Lee in the Biocouture project and I read many books and articles surrounding her research. This was the biggest influence and inspiration to my project.
I began experimenting in growing my own kombucha leather.

To grow the leather all you need is a container, water, sugar and tea bags. these can be green or black tea depending on the desired outcome. As well as a scoby. This is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. You can buy these online and they usually come as a round mat, which looks brown and slimy. These are what are used in the brewing of kombucha tea. They can be used over and over again as they are living organisms.

Basically, the process is that the scoby feeds on the sugary water and produces a microbial cellulose as a biproduct. This microbial cellulose is formed in fibrous strands which knit together to form a mat on top of the liquid.

You brew a large mixture of tea in a large container of water. The size of the container will determine the size of the piece of leather that is grown. Sugar is added to the solution and it is allowed to cool. The scoby is then placed in the solution. I would then cover the container and keep it in a warm dark area to let the material grow. Overtime, the scoby feeds on the sugary water and procedures fibres of cellulose which form a slimy mat on top of the liquid, taking the shape of the chosen container. Leaving it for longer allows a thick mat to be formed. To use this as a textile I tended to leave it for around three weeks.

By the end of three weeks, a thick white mat should have formed on top of the liquid. This is then harvested and left to dry to be used as a material. At this stage i chose to experiment with using thread as a sort of embroidery in the material. Before the mat had dried I added threads to the top of the mat, and in the drying process these fused into the fabric to become part of it. This is an interesting characteristic of the fabric. If things are added during the drying stage it allows them to be fused into the fabric creating a great design opportunity. It also takes natural dye very well at this stage.

I chose to keep the natural colour of the textile with the fused threads. Changing the type of tea baggers used would give me different results. Using green tea gave me a more translucent lighter brown, as opposed to black tea which would make a darker, more opaque leather. I used both of these types in the collection.

Once dried the leather can be cut and sewn like normal fabric. It unfortunately is not water resistant, which can be challenging for its use in fashion. However, I am confident it can be used. At the minute, treating it would make it unsustained or unnatural. With more research and experimentation this could be improved upon. The microbial cellulose fabric is 100% biodegradable and natural. The scoby used can be used over and over again to grow more material, so it is a very sustainable and circular process.

This fabric has many benefits. For example, it has the opportunity to be zero waste. It takes on the size of whatever container it is grown in, so it could be made in the shape of specific designed pattern pieces, or grown around a mannequin into a full garment without any seams.

It has the ability to repair itself. If the item becomes damaged or too small, it can regenerate itself when added to the solution of tea, sugar, water and scoby. It is also 100% biodegrarable and comes from natural organic materials."

Sold on kombucha leather? We know we are. You can buy the one-of-a-kind jacket here. Keep your eyes peeled for new Aequem products to come!