At one point in time some of the most elemental ingredients of our daily life were innovations: fire; wool; wheels; the food on our plates. Someone had to be the first to boil a chicken’s stone-like egg. To fry up the fungus that clings to trees. To grind the grains bobbing on the heads of wispy wheat. At what point does an ingenious innovation become filed under history and tradition?
As the climate crisis casts a shadow over the future, lab-engineered botanicals are quickly and quietly forming the cornerstones of tomorrow’s most quotidien moments. While prolific in the pharmaceutical and beauty industries (think lab-created dissolvable plant-based yarns for skin sutures or ultra-moisturising squalane made from fermented, lab-grown sugarcane), their role in garment technology is only just taking shape.
For its stackable Skins system, Gerbase. uses genetically engineered microbes – yeast, enzymes and bacteria – to create its Biodegradable Polymer Yarn. In growing these cultures in a laboratory the thread neither depletes natural resources nor creates the greenhouse emissions of other plant-derived materials – it uses minimal water and chemicals. Nature is synthesised: plant power optimised to the benefit of both human- and wildlife. This yarn forms the basis of the Eucalyptus BioYarn translucent knitted tubular tops, tunics and skirts that can be built up or pared back, combining in an ever-evolving modular wardrobe.
This biodegradable polymer is entwined with Eucalyptus Yarn, which is borne from the stringy fibres produced by pulping eucalyptus wood – that glorious, fast-growing grey-green leafed gum tree native to Australia with more than 700 different species. The two yarns are spun together in a super-tight twisted yarn that when knitted, builds a wrinkle-resistant, soft and breathable semi-opaque fabric – it holds colour like the new Royal Blue with a joyous vibrancy.
This symbiotic dance between technology and nature yields something truly beautiful – the stuff of our future. They are at once eternal in their timelessness and fully biodegradable. Just as these pieces breathe and move with the body, they have a life cycle, a circadian rhythm that sees them return to nature – leaving no trace, doing no harm.
This sense of cyclicality tracks through to each piece’s construction on 1960s Japanese knitting machines. Inspired by loopwheel fabric knitting machines from the 1800s (they were phased out in the 1900s to make way for mass-producing machines), the 1960s design creates the same pleated stitches as those earlier models but allows for clean-finish raw edges that don’t fray. The garments are knitted into shape using a unique rib stitch that creates a three-dimensional pleating effect with inbuilt stretch – with no trimming, no seams, no sewing, it’s a zero-waste production. The resulting silhouette is architectural and futuristic, the skin-feel is somehow a little Sci-Fi – as is the yarn’s lab-grown origin – but they’re rooted in the nature, in history and the innovations that have since become historical. But of course: we cannot move forward without looking back.
Sophie is a London-based writer and editor – she edits the print edition of AnOther Magazine. @sophie_bew
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