$5K Designer Jacket Is Dyed With an Unusual Source

Design company uses algae, fungi, and bacteria to create products in the name of sustainability
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 5, 2023 11:40 AM CST
$5K Designer Jacket Is Dyed With an Unusual Source
   (Getty / jarun011)

Dropping nearly $5,000 on a jacket isn't something most of us could sneeze over, though sneezes have something oddly in common with the newest line from Normal Phenomena of Life (known as NPOL). Their Exploring Jacket, which costs $4,895, gets its fun pink hue from bacteria, specifically Streptomyces coelicolor, Fast Company reports. NPOL's mission is to create radically sustainable fashion and beauty products using biotechnologies. This means no two Exploring Jackets will turn out the same as the bacteria naturally interacts with fabric. "Biology does something remarkable—it grows," NPOL's Christina Agapakis tells Wallpaper. "NPOL helps us to grow our imagination of what might be possible when we design with biology."

The brand started out by dyeing scarves, and uses other microbes in the lab to create their limited line of products, which includes select clothing, prints using ink derived from algae, and face oil made from fungi. When NPOL initially set out to create its version of sustainable fashion, the founders ran into some hiccups. Being the first of its kind, the company couldn't just design products—they were also tasked with setting up a unique supply chain. "What started off as 'let's design a shop' was very quickly 'okay, we're actually building a product development pipeline for biotech-enabled products,'" says NPOL's Natsai Audrey Chieza. The company's initial products are geared toward the luxury market with very limited quantities, but NPOL hopes to scale and reach a larger consumer base as the technology develops.

While NPOL has the corner on bacteria couture for now, London designers Vin + Omi are dressing people in royal plants. Per the New York Times, they sourced giant butterbur plants from King Charles III's Sandringham estate to create a silk-like fabric that was debuted during London Fashion Week in September. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that another designer grew plants to create an environmentally friendly pair of jeans in an "act of rebellion" against fast-fashion. Justine Aldersey-Williams taught herself to spin flax fibers over nine months, then spent an additional nine weeks spinning her "jeans." She believes these linen jeans, which do not require thirsty cotton plants, show "we can have clothing that helps the planet, and not harms it." (In France, rebates are now offered to encourage people to mend their clothes).

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