RCA Fashion Biomaterial Platform 2018

Team & Collaboration


In recent years, we have witnessed the coupling of biological advancements with that of technology to generate an emerging trend towards hybrid technologies that have begun to permeate into our environments. Such examples of these might include the bio-fabrication and 3D printing of human tissue for surgical repair while other instances can be seen with deeper work into the genome with the rise of computational biology. The intentional blend of the natural and digital has also permeated into our clothing, on or under our skin and continues to disrupt our more traditional notions of wearable technology and fashion. This hybridization has also enabled a new kind of cross disciplinary approach that includes other fields of science (biology, chemistry, material sciences) while being more inclusive of the arts (design, fashion) as the output. 

Last year’s innovations in computational and synthetic biology has afforded us the ability to design biological functions that can act as interfaces for input and output experiences and to create new bio-materials and fibers on a molecular scale. These advancements offer new opportunities for fashion, wearables, medical solutions, and smart cities that will fundamentally change the way we interface with our environments, our bodies and each other. ‘Bio-materials’ is the next frontier towards a more intuitive, intelligent hybrid practice that reaches across disciplines and fields to create seamless, sustainable, beautiful and intelligent creations that will take us into the next century. 

In this term we will explore how fashion will participate in defining this new practice and how it might disrupt the current fashion industry by creating concepts of first potential applications.

Selected Projects

Non-Human Becoming by Søs Christine Hejselbæk

CYBORGIAN BIONICS // In the year of 3018 our external intimacy with technology will have annihilated us from one another, until we’re no longer able to experience human intimacy. Nonhuman becoming seeks to speculate about cyborgian cultures in a future scenario. The artefact acts as an eco-skeleton, transmitting the impulses from the nervous system through a conductive aluminium structure, which then activates a algae-based robotically extruded hydrogel and lights up in the intensity of the sensation from the nervous system, through the bioluminescent algae species of Noctiluca.
In collaboration with: Shneel Malik - PhD in Algae-based Structures in Architecture - Bartlett School of Architecture.
Design Engineer Helene Steiner & Chemical Engineer Thomas Meany -  Open Cell London

Curling fibres: Harnessing the everyday phenomenon of frizz by Nicci James

“It is now possible to manipulate proteins at a molecular level to enhance their most desirable characteristics. These proteins are able to be spun into fibres that mimic naturally occurring filaments like cotton, wool and hair. Using the science of hair’s natural response to moisture – the everyday phenomenon of frizz – it would be possible to create a fibre that fluffs up in the rain, or any moisture rich environment. A curling fibre like this would create soft, tactile fabrics, behaving like the natural fibres we love, without the use of petrochemicals.

Grow your own couture by Piero D'Angelo

What if… we created a bio-garment to filter our air?
‘Grow Your Own Couture’ allows you to grow garments out of lichens through a DIY fashion kit to absorb pollution around the wearer. In fact lichens absorb pollutants like nitrogen or sulphur dioxide and metabolise them into less or non-dangerous compounds. So what if you can do that in very few simple steps? First prepare a solution bath then submerge your garment on it. Remember to keep it moist and enjoy your living garment in years to come.



Week 1

4th October 2018

10:00 - 12:00

  • Intro & Brief “Biodesign” by Helene Steiner
  • Talk: “Synthetic Biology and the potential and challenges of new fibers”  by Dr. James McDonald, Imperial College London
  • Q&A

1:30 - 4:00

“Illustration Machine” Drawing Session at Open Cell

To-Do until Week 2: _> LINK TO DRAWINGS

Reassess the drawings from the “Illustration Machine” and generate first ideas/concepts/applications.

Ideas have to be presented in the following week to Dr. Thomas Meany & Louise Bennett.

Please organize yourself if you want to work in groups or as an individual.


Week 2

10th October 2018

10:00 - 10:30

Intro Dr. Thomas Meany, Director OpenCell and Cell-Free Technology

11:00 - 14:30

Proposal Presentations - Tutorial with Dr. Thomas Meany & Louise Bennett

15:00 - 16:00

  • Presentation Marcos Cruz, Bio-ID, Bartlett School of Architecture
  • Q&A


Week 3

17th October 2018

10:00 - 12:00

“Prototyping the unknown”

Prototyping of ideas and creating artifacts

with Louise Bennett & Helene Steiner

To-Do until Week 6: 

“Tell a story”

Observe a person which is affected by the topic of your idea. Follow them for 1 day and study their environment, problems and behaviour. Try to be non-invasive and think how to best document it to tell us the story of the person and or their environment. (Use pictures, film, interviews,…)


Week 4

24th October 2018


Visit “Fashion from Nature” at V&A with Edwina Ehrman


Tutorials in the afternoon Helene


Week 5

31st October 2018 | Across RCA

Personal Tutorials


Week 6

7th November 2018 

10:00 - 13:00

Prototyping and Storytelling an anthropological exploration with Jan Stoeckl, independent filmmaker


Tutorials with Jan Stoeckel


Week 7

14th November 2018 

10:00 - 12:00

Defining the role of a fashion in the field of biomaterials

Group session


Tutorials in the afternoon with Louise & Helene


Week 8

21st November 2018 

10:00 - 12:00

  • Introduction of the biomaterial platform by students
  • Talk by Dr. Cindy Kao, MIT Media Lab and Cornell University
  • Q&A


Tutorials with Dr. Cindy Kao


Week 9

29st November 2018 

Final Presentation and exhibition at Open Cell


Ressources & Inspirations:

Nowness - fashion visuals


Neri Oxman - Mediated Matter Group



Biologic - MIT Media Lab


Cilia - MIT Media Lab


Future Flora - Giulia Tomasello


Biota Lab - UCL


Radical Matter


Synthetic Aesthetic


Biodesign, William Meyers


Institute of Making




Alice Potts












Bolt Threads


Modern Meadow


The Unseen


Puma & MIT Design Lab


Ginko Bioworks


Faber Futures


Fashionded from Nature - V&A






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