Wining and Designing: Scientist Turns Alcohol into Clothing

Jesus may have turned water into wine, but Gary Cass, a researcher at The University of Western Australia, has managed to turn wine into haute couture.
The idea was born with a simple observation: Cass noticed that a vat of wine contaminated with Acetobacter bacteria—a safe and non-pathogenic strain—had formed a rubbery textile on its surface. And then came the lightbulb moment: a routine biological process could transform the fashion world.
Working alongside artist Donna Franklin, Cass turned Mother Nature into a seamstress. The artist-scientist team put the same biological principle in action against molds of the human body, morphing red wine, white wine, and beer into clothing that fit mannequins and models like gloves. Seamless, labor-less, and biodegradable gloves, one should note.
In honor of the living microbes that do the work, the duo has christened the fabric “Micro’be’.” But Micro’be’ is far from ready-to-wear. Despite its environmental advantages, the material has some obtrusive practical disadvantages.
One of the more glaring drawbacks? Clothing made from Micro’be’ is stubbornly inflexible. Dressing and undressing would make for a regular dilemma. And God forbid you gain weight.  
And then there’s the smell. Micro’be’ retains both the original color and odor of the alcohol it’s made from. While wine-colored fabric has had its fashion moments, smelling like a fine wine has never been recommended in Vogue—or even Cosmopolitan. In fact, it’s generally best not to reek of alcohol, especially when around family and police officers.
Cass and Franklin, however, maintain they’re hard at work trying to sew up the holes in their design. And while the very thought seems outlandish now, who knows? Maybe someday, Micro’be’ will be the go-to choice for the eco-friendly and fashion-forward.
Visit bioalloy.org for more information and photos of Micro’be’.
Photo Credit: wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/File:Red_wine_closeup_in_glass.jpg

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