ted fellows

Grow your own clothes: Suzanne Lee on TED.com

Posted by: Tedstaff

Designer Suzanne Lee shares her experiments in growing a kombucha-based material that can be used like fabric or vegetable leather to make clothing. The process is fascinating, the results are beautiful (though there’s still one minor drawback …) and the potential is simply stunning. (Recorded at TED2011, March 2011, in Long Beach, CA. Duration: 6:41)

Watch Suzanne Lee’s talk on TED.com, where you can download it, rate it, comment on it and find other talks and performances from our archive of 900+ TEDTalks.

Comments (12)

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  • Terry Brookman commented on Dec 29 2011

    This would do away with plastic and standard paper bags, there is also wrapping paper and news paper. There are so many uses for this material and process it is hard to think of them all, I would think that at some point the product could be loaded into a injection mold and many types of biodegradable products could be made.

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  • kennethg Networx commented on Sep 5 2011

    Thats an interesting discovery Suzanne , instead of bringing down trees and plants for fabric, we can use bacteria.

  • Shirley Townsend commented on Aug 11 2011

    Since this is a cellulose could it be used to create fuel? I use to make Kombucha and was told that if I was on a septic system NEVER to allow any of it go into the septic system, that it would grow there and fill it. Since the septic system would be full of nutrients I thought this very possible. Then I wondered if it could be used for cleaning polluted water. I always thought it was a mushroom. Is that close to right? Seeing your talk reminded me of so many of these thoughts. I had other ideas but those nasty old senior moments have kept them at bay for the time being.

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  • Joyce M. Simmerman commented on May 12 2011

    I’ve used the kombucha scoby for healing wound purposes, (2 sebaceous cysts on family member which had been present for over 40 years which broke upon and were heavily infected apparently with MRSA, where the scoby pulled the infection out, and eventually the white, waxy “slivers” inside which still caused a recurrent infected stage. At that point each were healed. The doctor who had overseen my treatment progress suggested I patent it. I said I could not as it was an ancient known usage. I had previously had discussion with other persons who were wise in kombucha-lore and with vinegar, (& hence Mother-of-Vinegar uses) for bandages, for drumskin heads, apparently for some leather uses back in the World War (not sure if I or II). At any rate, my suggestion for water-proofing it would be to experiment with the various biologics which make animal leathers water and chemical impervious. Having worn leather boots on the farm for many years in younger life, I am well aware of the various items such as saddle soaps, mink oil, and others which hold the leather together in supple shape for years in and out of the acids of the barnyards, etc. Perhaps seal oil as was used in the Arctic for their “leathers” made of many types of animal-origin leathers. Or perhaps such as coconut oil with tannins from black walnut? Or collaborate with the other TED speaker George Whitesides who was featured with his postage stamp diagnostics “lab” primarily paper. Perhaps some paper mix with the scoby??? Best wishes.

  • Katherine Topping commented on May 6 2011

    This is such an inspiring idea! Suzanne Lee is an example of what Orange County needs more of- TED savvy innovators. TEDxOrangeCoast is hosting its first event on May 19th at the Segerstrom Concert Hall and we are excited to raise awareness about TED’s mission. To get a glimpse of our 24 innovative speakers and to read how we feel about TEDx coming to the OC, take a quick look at our blog post: http://www.brandtailers.com/why-orange-county-needs-tedxorangecoast

    TEDxOrangeCoast 2011, here we come!

  • Costin Manda commented on May 5 2011

    All nice and cute, but the main ingredient seems to be sugar, a refined chemical from plant material. Normal clothing uses the plant material directly.

    • Emily Rennalls commented on Apr 14 2012

      The main ingredient is the Kombucha SCOBY, I am not sure, but I believe the sugar was used as a growth medium.