Post Carbon Lab is a biotech startup from London that is making the fashion industry sustainable by using microbial pigmentation and photosynthetic coating for textiles. The microbial layer on the clothing would suck out of carbon out of the atmosphere and hence becomes a leading change in the fashion industry.
Imagine affixing tiny, microscopic plants onto your clothes and easily carrying them wherever you go throughout the day, whether to your office, home or shopping complex. Welcome to the fascinating world of Post Carbon Lab where fashion photosynthesises!
Post Carbon Lab is a biotech startup piloting microbial pigmentation and photosynthetic coating for textiles. They treat existing fabrics with naturally occurring microorganisms, such as algae, which then live on the finished product, extracting CO2 from the air while emitting oxygen. They also dye the fabrics naturally through microbes, “which sweat colours after given suitable nutrition.” The budding startup consists of nearly ten members.
The lab is not just helping make the fashion industry sustainable, which alone accounts for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions and 20% of global water pollution, but is also providing ordinary people with the opportunity to do their bit in preventing climate change. For Dian-Jen Lin and Hannes Hulstaert, the founders of The Post Carbon Lab, their motive is not to chase huge profits, “We need a paradigm shift, regenerative practices, to stop thinking someone else will fix this stuff for us. We need to take care of our carbon emissions.”
Care and maintenance
But just as is the case with all the best things in life, which do not come easy but are worth the sacrifice, the Post Carbon fashion garments require care and attention like any other plant. The clothes require frequent access to sunlight, clean air, a daily sprinkle of water or the presence of moisture. In case the organism is deficient in any nutrients, it changes its colour and lets you know. Textiles can be hand washed with a mild, neutral pH detergent, and are ideally required to be stored in a bright, well-ventilated space, without any direct heat. Also, the algae are likely to absorb more carbon dioxide in warmer climates or during the summer months than during colder periods and the microorganisms perform better in temperate climates than tropical. According to the lab, if taken proper care of, the clothing could be wearable for many years.
The fast-fashion producers are less likely to make it a part of their shelves soon as they rather prioritise low cost and convenience for customers. However, they have teamed up with French car manufacturer DS Automobiles and local clothing label EgonLab to produce a range of clothing promoting the concept alongside a promotion for a DS electric car. On being asked if they intend to globalise the product, Lin replied, “ long-distance carbon transportation is itself very polluting, which negates the very essence of the startup which is to tackle climate change. Also, globalising comes with its own set of challenges, so for now we are focussing more on establishing ourselves locally.”
Lin describes themselves as a laboratory, ” We are a testing ground, for not just bio-manufacturing, design and fashion but also to explore alternative forms of existence in better ecological, economic, cultural and societal contexts”. Lately, they have been looking forward to expanding themselves even to the bio print segment of fashion. On being asked how else can we make the highly polluting fashion industry more sustainable, Lin replied, “We think the most sustainable fashion we can have is what we already have! We want the fast fashion brands to revisit their dead stock at warehouses and send them to us to be reinvented with more love and microbial colours.”
Post Carbon Lab also recently debuted at the Paris Fashion Week with a bomber jacket, trench coat and two t-shirts. The line took around 7 to 10 weeks to produce, with much of that time going into growing and maturing the algae. During this period, Post Carbon Lab claims the clothing absorbed 1.45 kilograms of carbon – an amount which would take an oak tree around half a year to sequester.