Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • I grew up at a time when the space race

  • seemed to have influenced the design of everything around me.

  • I was a child of the seventies,

  • I was a massive science-fiction fan,

  • I was transfixed by TV and movies like 2001, Star Trek and Star Wars.

  • The design of the future seemed so exciting,

  • it felt like

  • we would all be living in houses that looked like this,

  • even the name of this house was "Futuro".

  • It was made from reinforced polyester plastic

  • and it was designed so that it could be mass-produced and situated in any location.

  • As a child I couldn't think

  • of anywhere cooler that you might live.

  • And what kind of car would you park outside this house?

  • For me there was only one choice,

  • the legendary Ferrari Modulo.

  • It was designed by Pininfarina, the Italian styling house,

  • forty-four years ago

  • and for me it was a complete dream.

  • The whole roof

  • slid forward, so just climbing into it was an adventure.

  • And what would you wear inside this car?

  • This is not a car that you get into wearing jeans and t-shirts.

  • No, no, no.

  • Nothing less than one of Pierre Cardin's space people

  • would look right sitting inside this car.

  • Sixties fashion designers like Cardin, Andre Koresh, Paco Rabanne,

  • they were really responsible for creating the future aesthetic look.

  • They even suggested that people in the future might be wearing all-in-one jump suits;

  • I mean, as if.

  • (Laughter)

  • Their vision, these futuristic fashions were made from materials

  • like moulded plastics, synthetic fibres,

  • all kinds of vinyl.

  • But those space-age materials relied on a petrochemical industry

  • which was creating new polymer science

  • and those designs weren't in fact

  • very sustainable or indeed practical.

  • The Futuro house had to be taken off the market in the mid-1970s

  • because of the oil crisis

  • which made the production

  • prohibitively expensive.

  • The Modulo car,

  • well, it was only ever a concept.

  • It was far too low to be road legal

  • and in fact it could only drive in a straight line.

  • As for plastic clothes and synthetic fibres,

  • well, if you've ever worn them, you know that they don't breath.

  • they're not very comfortable,

  • so,

  • you know, they had limitations.

  • As a child my future,

  • plastic-fantastic future,

  • really didn't include a world that looked like this.

  • Several decades later

  • we know that those so-called future materials

  • really wasn't a sustainable pattern of behaviour

  • and we know today that we need to radically rethink

  • raw materials, manufacturing, consumption and so forth.

  • I did follow my childhood dream

  • to be a designer

  • and I went into fashion

  • but I continued being excited by science and technology.

  • But what I was looking for was a vision for the future which

  • was positive in some way

  • and i started to research

  • what that long-term future vision might be

  • and I wrote a book

  • about the future of fashion but not

  • about what we might wear next season but what we might be wearing in fifty years time.

  • One of the

  • things I've discovered in researching that was that if you want to find out about the future,

  • don't ask a designer, ask a scientist.

  • One of the most interesting people I met

  • was a biologist

  • and when I put it to him that I was searching for the future vision of fashion,

  • he replied,

  • "You could grow it."

  • He explained that micro-organisms

  • like bacteria and yeast

  • can also produce textile-like fibres.

  • They don't need to grow in a field,

  • this can happen in a liquid.

  • Wow, here was a vision of the future that I had never seen or heard of before,

  • a dress emerging from a vat of liquid.

  • So I no longer work with this

  • instead I work with this.

  • My threads went from being visible to invisible,

  • but essentially the material

  • is the same, it's cellulose.

  • I no longer think about cloth

  • in terms of oil or fields,

  • I think about it in terms of my microbes and recipes.

  • So this is a recipe for a jacket.

  • Sugary green tea,

  • some microbes

  • and a little time.

  • So this is a fermentation solution,

  • the dark shadow that you can see at the bottom

  • is a living organism.

  • It's a symbiotic mix of yeast and bacteria

  • that when they feed on the sugar nutrient

  • spin nanofibrils of cellulose.

  • And these come together and form fibres.

  • Over time that forms a thick mat on the surface.

  • So these are growth baths set up in my design studio.

  • On the left you can see it just set up, so there's the living culture just been put in

  • and there's a sensor that that regulates the temperature.

  • Two weeks later

  • there's the material that's formed on the surface.

  • When it's ready and I'm happy with the thickness, I just wash it out

  • and lay it on

  • a wooden board so that it can air dry.

  • And something which is two centimetres in thickness when it's wet

  • will once all the water has evaporated will dry down

  • to be less than half a millimetre in thickness.

  • And depending on the recipe and how it's made,

  • it can feel anything like a paper

  • to something which is more like a leather texture,

  • which means that you can cut it and sew it

  • like you might a conventional garment.

  • So here is a garment which has been hand-sewn together just as it's

  • emerging from a vat of indigo.

  • And this is it finished.

  • So this is a jacket which is just made from sugary tea and some microbes.

  • That means it's completely compostable.

  • So if you wanted to, you could throw it out with your vegetable peelings

  • and it will naturally biodegrade.

  • Or,

  • you could think of it like this,

  • instead of throwing it in the washing machine with some soap,

  • what would happen if you put in some micro-organisms

  • and some nutrient solution?

  • What if instead of

  • washing your clothes, you fed them?

  • Some bugs would eat the dirt,

  • so they would clean the garment,

  • but others might start to actually grow onto the existing structure.

  • So what would happen if you could actually regrow something?

  • If you get bored of it, don't throw it away,

  • grow into a different shape.

  • As a designer I now

  • am excited about the future

  • around living materials.

  • We're just at the start

  • of biology and design coming together,

  • creating all kinds of exciting new materials.

  • And there are many people

  • doing this kind of work.

  • For example, people are actually looking at making silk into a liquid

  • that you can put into a 3D printer,

  • so that you could make something

  • like a pair of spectacles.

  • There are people

  • taking the waste crops from something like carrots

  • and turning it into an organic carbon fibre-like material,

  • so that you could make something tough,

  • like a skateboard.

  • If you could harness organic materials from the natural world what would you choose to make with it?

  • Personally,

  • I would quite like a mother of pearl

  • version of one of these.

  • And how did you to come here today?

  • Maybe you wore one of these.

  • So creating

  • consumer products from biomaterials

  • has many advantages.

  • Obviously we need to make products which can

  • be easily and safely biodegraded.

  • But what if we could actually harness the unique qualities of those materials?

  • I'm not talking about mimicking nature;

  • the future of design is going to be about

  • working with and improving upon what's there already.

  • So emerging science like

  • synthetic biology is enabling us to think about how we might

  • actually engineer

  • new additional beneficial functions

  • into organic matter.

  • So returning to your cycle helmet,

  • let's imagine a future where it's not based on an oil-based plastic,

  • but instead was made by this guy.

  • Thank you very much.

  • (Applause)

I grew up at a time when the space race

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 fashion vision synthetic design thickness garment

【TEDx】Fashion futurist: Suzanne Lee at TEDxFlanders

Video vocabulary