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Biofabricate: Biomaterials offer a potential to fashion’s future

By Florence Julienne


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Fairs |In Pictures

Biofabricate Summit - Pneuma Credits: F; Julienne

Up until 12 January 2024, the industrial site of Fondation Fiminco in Paris’ Romainville district is playing host to the Biofabricate trade fair, where the most innovative companies in the field of biomaterials will be showcasing their wares, each giving a new lease of life to the word "fashion".

For several years now (during which time the pandemic has only worsened things), the fashion sector has been pilloried. The cause? The very system of fashion itself, based on the programmed obsolescence of trends, which no longer rhymes at all with a society that wants to be eco-responsible. Faced with this dilemma, some have opted for second-hand goods, others for useful purchases, and still others have rushed into experiments that still smell of petrol. Suzanne Lee, founder of Biofabricate, meanwhile, presented the solution that could change the game: biomaterials.

Credit: Suzanne Lee. Image: Biofabricate

Following a session in Brooklyn, New York, where Lee is based, and a previous edition organised in London, this visionary, passionate about art and biotechnology, has chosen Paris, or rather Romainville, an unusual location for those used to fashion, to inaugurate the first European edition of the Biofabricate Summit. Here, she is showcasing some of the trendsetters with the potential to revolutionise fashion consumption, but not only that.

Biofabricate Summit - Pact Credits: F. Julienne

"My aim here is not to enable exhibitors to sell their products, as they would at Lineapelle or Première Vision, but to encourage meetings with partners (including investors and collaborators)," she told FashionUnited. Why Romainville? "Because before it was a residence for artists (Fondation Fiminco), the site was home to pharmacology researchers. That makes the choice of this location all the more meaningful," added Lee. Why France? "Because it's the land of luxury. Despite the distance, the inauguration of the show on Wednesday 10 January 2024 was well attended, with teams from LVMH, Kering (partner of the show), Chanel, etc. among the visitors.

Biomaterials are primarily of interest to luxury brands such as Balenciaga and Gucci, which are in a position to be part of a virtuous circle

However, let's make no mistake: the inventions presented here are mainly aimed at the luxury sector, which has the financial resources to experiment with this kind of technology. And they will remain so if investment, public or private, is not made quickly.

In a dedicated room, the Kering Group is exhibiting items made from biomaterials. These include Balenciaga's Maxi Hooded Wrap Coat, first presented in March 2022 on the catwalk for the autumn/winter 2022/2023 show. It is made from Ephea (SQIM patent), a material cultivated from mycelium, a pure base, free from chemicals. The coat is also made from Lunaform (Gozen), a biomaterial derived from nanocellulose (a natural polymer found in plant cell walls) and produced by microorganisms during fermentation.

Biofabricate Summit - Balenciaga EPHEA and LUNAFORM Credits: F. Julienne

For Gucci, Kering is presenting the Rhyton sneaker and the revamped Horsebit 1955 bag. Both accessories are made from Demetra, which is composed of up to 77 percent plant-based ingredients (viscose, cellulose pulp and organic polyurethane). In the press release, Marie Claire Daveu, Kering's director of sustainable development and institutional affairs, commented: "As a group, we are committed to developing new solutions and transforming our business model to achieve our sustainability goals."

Biofabricate Summit - Gucci sneaker Rhyton and Horsebit 1955 revisitedCredits: F. Julienne

Biomaterials made from organic waste, natural proteins, algae or inspired by biomimicry

Spread over three floors, the stands at the Biofabricate Summit showcase a wide range of experiments, including some of the most incredible inventions, displayed on the large table in the main room.

OurCarbon, for example, is a carbon-negative material produced from real organic waste, starting with wastewater residues known as biosolids. The technology dries the organic matter using bacteria, then sterilises it and transforms it into a fixed, stable carbon.

Biofabricate Summit - Ourcarbon Credits: F. Julienne

Using protein engineering and molecular biology, Bloom is harnessing the untapped potential of nature's abundant waste proteins to create scalable and sustainable next-generation fibres that are "as soft as cashmere, as fine as silk and as functional as polyester", according to the presentation.

Biofabricate Summit - Bloom Credits: F. Julienne

Soarce exploits the unique properties of nanomaterials derived from algae and ceramics. The plant-based products improve colour fastness, UV protection, fire resistance and sparkle.

Biofabricate Summit - Soarce Credits: F. Julienne

Capra Biosciences specialises in converting carbon waste into clean, sustainable chemicals. Retinol (used in cosmetics) and lubricants are the first of many products to be brought to market using bioreactors.

Biofabricate Summit - Capra Biosciences Credits: F. Julienne

Pneuma uses artificial photosynthesis to harness the cells of microalgae to create materials that capture carbon. Their flagship product, Oxya, marks a milestone in the materials industry as a living material designed to actively capture CO2 while releasing oxygen, enabling complete biodegradability and reduced carbon emissions.

Biofabricate Summit - Pneuma Credits: F; Julienne

Significant progress in dyeing textile fibres with natural dyes

Frenchman Benjamin Droguet, based at Cambridge University (UK), has created a buzz among a team at LVMH. His start-up, Sparxell, is inspired by the colours of animals - butterflies, beetles, pigeon necks, etc. - to develop plant-based dyes with a metallic effect, formerly obtained from metals, minerals or dyes combined with plastics.

Biofabricate Summit - Sparxell Credits: F. Julienne

The latest example to arouse the curiosity of enthusiasts is the Portuguese company Colorifix, which has developed a process for depositing and fixing pigments on textiles, by directly dyeing the bacteria that settle on them. Otherwise, the fabric naturally rejects the dye when it is not chemical.

Biofabricate Summit - Colorifix Credits: F. Julienne

To conclude, it is worth quoting this text inscribed on a panel at the entrance to the main hall: "There is only one primordial nation, the unicellulars, who govern all living beings thanks to the countless indefectible alliances they have forged with all forms of life on Earth. We carry within us the living vestiges of primitive worlds. This is the key to the mystery of life.

Making contact with invisible worlds has long been the privilege of magicians, oracles and shamans. Since then, scientists have become the modern intercessors who put us in touch with forbidden and fascinating worlds, where we discover that the void is populated not only by atoms, but also by an unexpected multitude: microbes. The invisible is inhabited by tiny beings with unequal powers".

Biofabricate Summit Paris January 2024 Credits: F. Julienne
Circular Fashion
Next gen materials