First there was Lady Gaga's meat dress, and now contemporary artist Donna Franklin has gone a step further and created the world’s first dress made from red wine. As reported on db.com, in a collaboration with Bioalloy, which carries out research for the University of Western Australia, Franklin developed the fibrous cellulose fabric by introducing acetobacter – the bacteria used in the fermentation process of turning wine into vinegar – into vats of wine.
The bacteria produces cellulose, which is chemically similar to cotton, when grown in a solution containing glucose. Other alcohol, including beer, can be used in place of wine. Gary Cass, co-founder of Bioally, chanced upon the material while attempting to make a cyborg with self-developing skin. Cass went on to form fermented fashion label Micro’be’ with Franklin, which aims to “investigate the practical and cultural biosynthesis of clothing.”
"The Micro'be' garments are made from microbial cotton which forms on the surface of the wine almost as if the bacteria are trying to form a raft to flow onto the wine," Cass told technology website Wired.co.uk. "We have perfected a technique that will allow the bacteria to form a three-dimensional seamless garment that can be formed to fit the wearer like a second skin,” Cass added.
When dry, the cellulose becomes inflexible and easily torn – a large stumbling block if Micro’be’ is to go mainstream. This is not Franklin's first foray into fermented fashion – in 2007 she created a living fungus dress while working at UWA, feeding the dress special nutrients to promote its colour-changing properties. Franklin said she developed the dress to "challenge people's perceptions of body-garment relationships and our relationship to the natural world.”
Cass meanwhile, is carrying out research into how the Micro’-be’ material can be used in tissue engineering where microbial cellulose would be applied on the lower half of a wound and then seeded with stem cells. "Fermented fashion doesn't need to stay within the fashion world. It can inspire new thoughts in many other disciplines, such as medicine, engineering, dentistry or architecture,” he said. The pair plan to release a new dress later this year.