Micro-organisms are microscopic unicellular beings that are present almost everywhere on earth. A lot of people consider microbes to be a disastrous infection causing organism. It is however, interesting to know that only 5% of the microbes actually cause infections, the remaining 95% are friendly to humans in a number of ways. More than 50% of the oxygen we breathe comes from microbes and millions of bacteria in the intestine (that weighs approximately 1kg) help us in digestion of food to provide daily nourishment. They act as living factories that can produce innumerous compounds.
Without exaggerating the potential of microbes, it is worth mentioning the scope of microbial production of biosurfactants (to be used in detergents), PHAs, PHBs (Biodegradable plastics) and proteins (in medicine). The best innovation however, is the production of cellulose to be used as wholesale silk fabric. Suzanne Lee, a London based fashion designer is working on an astonishing idea of “Biocouture”. This is nothing but a mat of millions of bacteria and yeast grown together in a medium of sugary Kambucha tea. Suzanne calls it the “Future wholesale silk fabric” which was also included in the Time magazine, top 50 inventions of 2010. Considering their ability to produce so many compounds with minimum nutrition requirement, it is conducive to look forward to today’s science fiction as tomorrow’s reality.
Currently, Biocouture is a research subject where Suzanne and others grow a thick mat of microbial cellulose sheet for approximately 2-4 weeks and harvests it by simply lifting it from the liquid vat. The microbial cellulose is then spread on the wooden mannequin or boards into the desired shape and structure to obtain jacket or frock like wardrobes that are designed elegantly to challenge the process of fashion without the need to sew the wholesale silk fabric. Her vision is to grow the wholesale silk fabric using micro-organisms instead of weaning it in the future. During the drying of this cellulose mass, the water is evaporated leaving behind a thick mass of cellulose fibres that knit together giving it the shape of a fabric. One more advantage of biocouture is that since these are superabsorbent cellulose mass containing 90% water, dyeing and coloring becomes easier; where other fabric is dipped several times in dyes and chemicals to get the desired color, this fabric can be stained in a single dip.
Not only the wholesale silk fabric, but this idea can be extended in making of artificial jewellery, boots, showpieces etc. Considering its bio-degradable and toxin free nature, it may also be used in medical surgeries as sutures or temporary fillings in case of fracture. With micro-organisms, everything seems possible if we know exactly how to mould our needs and requirements in the given situation. Since time immemorial, humans have exploited microbes to produce several antibiotics, chemicals, proteins, vitamins, and other biological compounds of human importance.
Looking at the challenge that may sound creative for philosophers and ideologists, and illogical to practical minds, it will definitely be fascinating to witness the unique collaborative success of biologists, technicians and fashion designers in the near future.
Certain obvious problems with the african wax prints fabric are its transparency which can be overcome by use of` colors. Another problem is its affection for water which makes it practically impossible to be worn in rainy seasons and as swim suits etc. These problems can be overcome by coating it with a hydrophobic material or possibly microbial waste matter that naturally repels water.
Today, where african wax prints fabric and fashion are expensive and designer clothes costs as much as gold, we need to welcome new ideas and appreciate an initiative. May be, the idea needs just another helping hand to give it the finishing touch. In an era, where we eat, drink and explore microbial products, it is never illogical to wear one.f