Friday, 28 November 2008

What future for living textiles?

This Textile Futures meeting at the ICA on 23 October included several speakers. Oron Catts ( spoke on a line from Australia to describe the project he has been researching on victimless leather which uses fetal calf serum to grow fabrics in the laboratory ( Clive van Heerden told us how Philips Design is researching innovative designs, for example a brooch worn by the elderly that can detect if they have fallen.

Suzanne Lee described her research into combucha, which is used as a health drink, but produces a mat of bacterial growth which is eaten in Indonesia. The waste products it produces are fibrils of cellulose, which form a network, and can be moulded. It forms a crisp paper but can be made more flexible by the addition of sugar. She grows it as flat sheets which can then be moulded. Metal nails and wire cause it to oxidise and form patterns as shown in the image above. It is not waterproof; it absorbs water and becomes heavy but dries out again afterwards. It will decompose completely so is sustainable, and the whole garment can be made form it including the buttons and zip.

Manel Torres told us about his research at Imperial College to develop a spray on fabric (http://www.fabricanltd/.com). It can be used to make interiors for cars, chair seats, wipes and clothes. We saw a video of it being used to make t shirts and dresses by spraying it directly onto models; it can then be peeled off and washed or manipulated and resprayed to form a new design.

Neil Parry from Unilever described his research into smart particles which can be used to transfer vitamins from washing powder to clothes and then be absorbed by the skin. He also told us about molecules that can target the hair. The evening closed with a question time panel for discussion.

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