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To create her vest, Esponette laid out cut pieces of muslin on a foam mannequin that she saturated with water. She then planted the chia seeds, which germinated into tiny sprouts a week later. Once the chia reached an appropriate size, Esponette sewed the fabric into the the “garment it was meant to be,” she said on her website.

As the vest continued to grow, it attracted some grazing snails. And, as long as the wearer exposes it to light and water to feed the photosynthesis process, the garment will continue to evolve like the living entity it is.

The Chia Vest is just the latest in a line of experiments by Esponette to “reinvent textile products.” (Previous attempts include a dress made out of hot glue and another composed of petal-like crystals.)

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By manipulating materials we’re comfortable in, and those we are not, she seeks to explore new structural and performance possibilities for the products we use.

“Why it is that we are comfortable wearing cow, but uncomfortable wearing other materials like hot glue, chia, and crystal?” she asked. “Is there an optimum level of familiarity with a material for our comfort level?”

Most of us, she said, reject the unfamiliar, choosing instead to reside in the “happy medium between no familiarity and uber-familiarity.”

Her upcoming company, Unspun, will take those concepts further, all while imagining a “world in which material waste is eliminated in textile product manufacturing, products are customized for their user, old material goods are recycled into new goods, and products are seamless, unbroken, complete.”

+ Elizabeth Esponette