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Designer works with researchers to create “biogarmentry”

September 14th, 2020 / By: / Out There

“Biogarmentry” explores the future of fashion by combining research from the fields of synthetic biology and design. Photo: Roya Aghighi. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. consumers send about 70 percent of the clothes and footwear produced each year to landfill. Project Biogarmentry, by designer Roya Aghighi, has been launched to address the drastic increase in the environmental impact of textile waste and air pollution. Using the fields of synthetic biology and design, its creator seeks to open up possibilities for more sustainable fashion. 

The work involves creating a biodegradable living textile that’s capable of photosynthesis. With the help of a group of scientists at the University of British Columbia (UBC), the team created the first proof of concept for the survival of photosynthetic living cells on natural fabrics, such as different kinds of cellulose and protein-based fibers. The outcome is a 100 percent natural and biodegradable textile, fully compostable and, more importantly, while living, the material will work to purify the air through photosynthesis. 

Since the life cycle of the living photosynthetic textile is directly dependent on how it is taken care of, the work challenges the relationship to clothing wearers now have. Therefore, biogarments come with exclusive care instructions in order to help the user keep the biogarment alive. 

As a multidisciplinary designer, Aghighi has been collaborating with material engineers, scientists and biologists at UBC to activate biodesign practices in Canada. She is designer-in-residence at Material Experience, a multi-country research group.