Don’t even attempt to get the red wine out of this dress. The skintight garment is part of a line of “fermented fashion” derived entirely from the alcoholic beverage. Developed by a group of scientists at the University of Western Australia, the Microb’be’ project eschews “lifeless weaving machines” in favor of living microbes, according to Gary Cass, its lead researcher. The resulting material, which comprises microfibers of cellulose, feels like sludge when wet but dries to the consistency of cotton.
It’s been seven years in the making, but the world’s first “invisible” bike helmet is now available for purchase. The brainchild of two industrial designers from Sweden, the Hövding—Swedish for “chieftain”—is essentially a collar that deploys an airbag-like hood in case of an impact. Unlike regular hard-hat helmets, the Hövding is designed to be unobtrusive. But the device is more than an expression of vanity. “An invisible bicycle helmet is a symbol of the ‘impossible,’” say Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin. “If people say it’s impossible, we have to prove them wrong.
Leave it to the Chinese to take the phrase “saving face” to a whole new, literal level. The “Face-kini” is all the rage in Qingdao, where bathing beauties don the accessory as a chemical-free alternative to sunblock. Another plus? The ski-mask-like coverup also keeps insects and jellyfish, not to mention unwelcome company, at bay.
Who can forget the infamous meat dress that Lady Gaga donned to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards? Comprising slabs of tenderloin, strip steak, flank steak, and rump roast (about $100 worth of the cheaper cuts, notes one New York butcher), the “Poker Face” singer’s Atkins-approved getup skirt-steaked the question of taste, not to mention sanitation.
When Liverpool designer Rachel Freire featured a gown made from 3,000 protruding cow nipples at London Fashion Week in 2011, she raised the ire of the British public, politicians, and animal-rights groups alike. But Freire defended her work. “What I am doing is recycling,” she said. “The people criticizing are clearly clueless about the amount of leather wasted on a daily basis.”
Holy smokes! Chilean designer Alexandra Guerrero made a bold and wholly unconventional move when she blended wool with discarded cigarette butts to create a line of clothing. Cleaned, shredded, and spun into yarn, the erstwhile Marlboros were then hand-crocheted into a bolero, vest, poncho, and a kicky little hat that would be cute if it weren’t stained with nicotine.
Suzanne Lee can conjure clothing out of thin air. No, wait, that’s not entirely accurate. She’ll need at least a couple of bathtubs, some yeast, a pinch of bacteria, and several cups of sweetened green tea. Lee, who is a senior research fellow at the School of Fashion & Textiles at Central Saint Martins in London, is the brains (and brawn) behind BioCouture, an experiment in growing garments from the same microbes that ferment the tasty caffeinated beverage. It’s from this microbial soup that fibers begin to sprout and propagate, eventually resulting in thin, wet sheets of bacterial cellulose that can be molded to a dress form.
When New York Universitystudent Emma Kaywin realized that a pile of expired condoms from her HIV Hotline internship were going to the landfill, she asked if she could use them for an art project, instead. After acquiring a good-sized stash in 2007, Kaywin’s made two dresses and a coat. Her boldness goes beyond being open about using condoms as art: She’s actually worn these outfits in public.
Okay, we’ll level with you. Calling Walter Raes’ tampon top “eco-friendly” would require a huge leap of the imagination. Still, we can appreciate the British artist’s ability to make something out of anything (lateral thinking, FTW). Plus, there aren’t nearly enough period-related jokes in the world. “By grouping single tampons together, I created a complex but versatile top,” Raes tells Ecouterre. “The object you shy away from actually becomes beautiful.”
If you think that meat is murder and wearing leather is just as grotesque, then Nancy Wu’s take on Chanel’s classic quilted bag might leave you vindicated—or nauseated; same difference. The product designer, who studied at Art Center College in California, hand-stitched sheets of beef jerky to create what she describes as a “highly desirable, lo-fi” accessory (whatever that means). Wonder what Kaiser Karl would say?
We’ve hurt of suffering for your art, but Sruli Recht took that concept to a whole new level when he devised a ring using flesh from his own abdomen. Following its removal, the Icelandic designer stripped the 110-by-10-millimeter piece of skin of subcutaneous tissue and fat, salted and tanned it with alum solution, then mounted the resulting leather onto a 24-karat gold band, wiry belly hairs intact. For obvious reasons, this will be the sole edition of Recht’s design.
CAT “HAIRBALL” JEWELRY
To celebrate 2011 Hairball Awareness Day, Kate Benjamin of Moderncat commissioned jewelry designer Heidi Abrahamson to transmute her kitties’ shed locks into earrings, a necklace, and a cocktail ring. Benjamin didn’t wait for her furry friends to spit up their follicles; she used a grooming tool known as the Furminator to gather the material she needed. Rolling the fur between her palms, Benjamin felted the strands into tight, solid beads, which Abrahamson then strung up on sterling silver.
Gone are the days of finding fashion’s most cutting-edge designs in some musty atelier in Paris. Ninela Ivanova, for one, prefers petri dishes over cutting tables. The Kingston University graduate student creates unconventional textiles from mold and fungi, which she grows in a lab before transposing the patterns onto silicone-coated chiffons and silks. The provocative result is a bustier, gown, and vest that look and feel like a mottled second skin.