For those in the built environment, ‘biomaterial’ might be a buzz phrase you’ve heard kicking around over the past couple of years. From seaweed to pineapple skin, design graduates around the globe have been busy developing alternatives to some of our staple surface materials. But, until now, these innovations have largely been reserved for exhibition purposes only. Something to be viewed with wide-eyed fascination, potentially to be Instagrammed, but scarcely specified.
However, the tides are turning. ‘Biomaterials’ have hit the mainstream. Named Material of the Year at the London Design Fair and adopted by Stella McCartney and other forward-thinking fashion brands, what was once considered futuristic and unobtainable has fast become reality.
With this in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the top ‘biomaterials’ coming to a garment or interior space near you in the not-so-distant future – as inspired by ES magazine’s piece.
A firm favourite of London design resource studio, Material Lab, Piñatex is a pioneer in offering a sustainable alternative to leather. Made from the fibres found in pineapple leaves, a non-woven mesh is created and manipulated to produce a texture and behaviour similar to that of leather. It is both biodegradable and non-toxic, making it an ideal solution for all manner of clothing, accessories and furniture coverings.
A similar material to Piñatex, Zoa™ is created with fermented yeast, which results in a collagen-like protein. The finished substance is biodegradable and, again, acts and appears just as leather does. With vegan ‘leather’ now very much in demand, Zoa™ joins Piñatex and Mylo™ – a mushroom based material – as frontrunners in the biomaterials movement.
The brainchild of fashion graduates Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena, Orange Fiber comprises the world’s first material made entirely from by-products of citrus. Now, we all know that Vitamin C is good for the body, but how does it benefit the surface coverings industry you might ask? The leftovers are transformed to produce a cellulose yarn, which has the same unique texture of silk. A true feat of innovative engineering.
This product is pretty much what it says on the tin. The New York-based brand creates its yarn from Northern Hemisphere-grown kelp, or seaweed, mirroring the texture, durability and behavioural characteristics of cotton. It was shortlisted for the LVMH Innovation Award in 2018, and with good reason.