Over this past year the fermented tea product kombucha has taken supermarket shelves and your favorite blogger’s Instagram feed by storm. Kombucha has been praised for its potential health properties, but is now catching the eye of daring designers across the world.
But it is not the effervescent tea that they are after…
When kombucha undergoes the fermentation process it creates a symbiotic bacteria and yeast colony. The gel-like disc produced is a SCOBY. Initially, a SCOBY is needed to produce the first batch of kombucha, after that, with each batch another SCOBY is produced.
SCOBYs are seemingly infinite as long as the kombucha trend continues, which is why designers are interested in utilizing it as a fabric.
When the SCOBY is harvested it can be dried and pressed which generates a leather like substitute making it an ideal material for handbags, shoes and belts.
SCOBY fabric could not have entered the market at a better time, more and more consumers and designers are trying to rear away from the fast fashion industry. Fast Fashion is the rapid production of garments that mimic designer trends, the clothing moves from design to sales floor in as quickly as one month. When clothing is manufactured at such speed it carries serious environmental ramifications ranging from harmful dyes, non-recylable synthetic materials and excessive water usage.
By utilizing SCOBYs, it could completely transform the fashion industry. Their bacterial properties make them completely biodegradable, which will aid in waste reduction. Instead of a SCOBY handbag or belt making its way into a landfill when the consumer is finished with it, the product could break down in the soil.
Although, this is a relatively new concept within the fashion realm there are a few designers who are taking steps to work with SCOBY fabrics
Sacha Laurin who is being praised as the master mind behind the idea, her background as a cheese maker had led her to dream up kombucha couture. Laurin believes that SCOBYs can be manipulated to mimic other materials like silk and canvas. The experience with fermentation Laurin has coupled with her science and chemistry background have paved the way for her to create strikingly gorgeous couture pieces and jewelry using SCOBYs.
Sacha Laurin’s collections are available on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/KombuchaCouture
Suzanne Lee is not only a Brooklyn based designer but is also the owner of start-up biotech company Modern Meadow. Lee believes that nature is one of the best designers if it can be made ready to wear for the average person. At Modern Meadow scientists are able to manipulate cells within things like a SCOBY to alter its weight, texture and strength making it more versatile as a fabric. Something that started as a simple experiment led Lee to create a collection of coat with SCOBYs that she grew in her bathtub. The collection included a biker, bomber and denim like jackets -all very trendy pieces of today. This project is something Lee wants to share her excitement about so she shared her instructions for growing your own fabric at home.
We are at a pivotal point in fashion history right now, if we want to protect our environment we have to start exploring different clothing options-creative thinkers like Lee and Laurin set a precedent for other designers to follow suit when it comes to testing the waters with unconventional garments.