Vegans looking for a cruelty-free leather jacket, you are in luck: you can now grow one at home. A few years back BioCouture’s Suzanne Lee developed a method, combining fermented bacteria, yeast, and sweetened green tea, to create whole outfits from biodegradable matter. Now Lee has taken a role as Creative Director for Modern Meadow, a Brooklyn startup that’s pioneering new, bovine-friendly forms of leather by “coaxing” animal tissue cells into tough, cowskin-like material. The end products are of varying durability, texture, and weigh, much like real leather—only more inventive. “Imagine leather that’s as lightweight and transparent as a butterfly wing or has the natural stretch of rubber,” Lee explains in Popular Science’s March 2015 issue. “Or imagine a material with the dynamic responsiveness of the skin of a chameleon.”
Lee first began experimenting with different forms of vegan leather a decade earlier, when she and Scottish biologist David Hepworth would create “living materials” in their respective homes. By combining tea, sugar, and a similar bacterial/yeast combination frequently used to ferment kombucha, Lee and Hepworth discovered that microbes, after ingesting sugar, create organic fibers that bind into pliable strips of cellulose.
Eerily, when molded into the form of a garment and left overnight to dry, the pieces fuse together together without any visible seams.
“You can actually have a dress growing in a vat of liquid,” Lee tells Popular Science. “I had never imagined a piece of clothing could be alive. And I have nothing to do with its creation. It’s growing for me.”
Check out the full post including the recipe for making your own cow-free “leather” at home!
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