What if we don’t need to keep cows anymore in order to produce leather? Imagine all the space we would have. Danish fashion brand Ganni proposed a future where this could become a reality: they grew imitation leather with bacteria.
The brand collaborated with Spanish-Mexican biomaterials lab Polybion to develop the new textile. This fabric, named Celium, is made from bacterial cellulose: by feeding agricultural mango waste to a bacterial colony, bacteria naturally turn the sugar into cellulose. This material can be processed and tanned just like animal leather, although it has a much smaller carbon footprint then its animal counterpart. A unique one-of-a-kind prototype blazer was showcased during the Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen last summer at the sustainability forum.
The current leather industry raises several environmental concerns due to processes involving heavy water, energy and chemical usage
Why make leather from bacteria? The current leather industry raises several environmental concerns due to processes involving heavy water, energy and chemical usage. The tanning process in particular is notorious for utilizing toxic chemicals such as chromium salts, which pose severe health risks to workers and contaminate nearby water sources. And of course, the involvement of live animals raises ethical concerns as well. A lot of reasons to find alternatives. Luckily, new solutions are plentiful.
Ganni is not the only fashion brand partnering up with a biomaterials lab to find new textile solutions. Fashion house Hermès teamed up with biolab MycoWorks, back in 2021 and developed a mycelium-based leather. And pioneer in sustainable fashion Stella McCartney used biomaterial Piñatex, leather made from pineapple leaf fibers, in some of her designs. From root to fruit: a multitude of leather alternatives are on its way and bacterial leather is one to look out for. Ganni and Polybion are hoping to offer their Celium garments to the public in 2024.