If you’ve strolled the aisles of a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or a hippie’s food pantry recently, you may have noticed a cute little drink called Kombucha, which comes in cute little bottles and resembles flavored soda. Turns out, it is actually fermented black or green tea steeped over a long period of time along with water and sugar, and tastes like a fizzy flavored tea in a weird yet oddly satisfying way.
The drink originated in China before making its way up to Russia, and eventually crept into the rest of Europe. In classic hipster style of constantly trying to one-up the other’s unique and initially off-putting endeavors, its recently resurged as a popular home-brewed drink.
There are plenty of great tutorials online, including this one on Spoon from last year, if you are interested in trying your hand at this weird trend. Its a great idea to try if you are into home brewing or if you can’t stand being ripped off for something that you can recreate in your own home for waaay cheaper.
Anyway, as I indulged in my bi-weekly TedTalk semi-educational procrastination binge, I came across this Talk from Suzanne Lee, a fashion designer who started her own clothing line made completely out of the biproduct of brewing kombucha. At first I was like… what? Is this lady serious? How is this even possible?
As I finished up Suzanne’s video and poked around a bit on the internet I got less and less skeptical, and I learned that this is super legit, good for the environment, and pretty frickin’ science-y, so gear up for this explanation.
I won’t go into details about the specifics of home-brewing Kombucha, but it both requires and produces this gelatinous, alien-looking thing called a SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. When the Kombucha is ready to drink, you can remove the SCOBY and start makin’ your own wardrobe.
As the TedTalk and this great Kitchn article describes, after you dry out the SCOBY you can sew it like you would normal fabric or form it over a 3-D object for a seamless look. It may sound weird, but if you start experimenting with different flavors and tea types you can make some wild clothes like this:
I wouldn’t be surprised if most people aren’t yet on board with this time consuming, strange trend, but here’s where it starts to get really interesting. If you think about it, this is a super eco-friendly idea, because you can basically make wearable consumer products that, essentially, self reproduce.
I’m not saying that all future clothes are going to be made out of your fizzy tea leftovers, but is important to consider where your fabric comes from and what impact it’s production is leaving on our environment. There are tons of up-and-coming sustainable clothing startups and initiatives that are trying to fix this increasingly important issue, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a product like these designs hit the shelves in a few years.