When it comes to the future of fashion, Suzanne Lee is ten steps ahead of the rest. And it’s not just because she wrote a book on the subject eight years ago (Fashioning the Future: Tomorrow’s Wardrobe); it’s because she’s focusing on core global problems and key materials innovations that will truly revolutionize the fashion industry.
Lee originally came from the fashion world, but over her career transitioned to biology and biologically produced clothing. Driven by environmental issues related to materials production and the toxic petrol-to-product pipeline that fuels many fabric factories, Lee became curious if more sustainable ways existed to produce fabrics. Her first foray into the world of bioproduction was to make clothing out of bacterial cellulose. She fermented bacteria from green tea in her bathtub to produce large biofilms, which she then dried, cut, and sewed into clothing. Her experiments and designs caught the eye of the global stage, and in 2011 she gave a TED talk on the subject, which has been viewed over 1 million times (“Grow Your Own Clothes”).
As her presence grew, she found that she filled an unexpected niche in the scientific community. Coming from a designer’s perspective, she found she could not only help scientists explain the value of their science to the public, but that she could also help them imagine new applications for their science. She founded Biocouture, the “first biocreative design consultancy”, to help brands “imagine a biodesigned future” (quoted per the Biocouture website). The Biocouture consultancy focuses on biological and sustainable materials production. Lee has said she is excited about the potential for increased functionality in these novel materials, such as incorporating new physical or chemical properties, but that overall she is still driven by an intense desire to carve a path for more sustainable, natural fabrics. And she knows she is not going at this alone--to bring together like-minded thinkers, she founded the Biofabricate Conference in 2014, an annual gathering in NYC for all interested in bioproduced materials. Lee now works part-time running Biocouture and part-time at Modern Meadow as their Creative Director, a company aiming to produce cell-cultured leather and meat.
Don’t miss the chance to hear from Suzanne Lee as a panelist at Fashion F4WD, at the Boston MFA on September 17!