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Designer turns cellulose into plastic-free, biodegradable sequins

In a bid to make the fashion industry more sustainable, designer Elissa Brunato has developed the Bio Iridescent Sequin, a material research and design project that turns cellulose into shimmering biodegradable sequins of varying shapes and sizes. Created in collaboration with Material Scientists Hjalmar Granberg and Tiffany Abitbol from the RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, these environmentally friendly sequins offer a compostable alternative to conventional sequins, which are typically made from petroleum plastic or synthetic resins. This new bio-material is proposed as one of the solutions toward a circular textile economy.

small oval-shaped sequin

Created in a laboratory using “bio-technologies,” the Bio Iridescent Sequin project has produced a wide range of samples of different colors and sizes with iridescent shine. The material samples were all created from cellulose, a naturally abundant resource that is most commonly obtained for large-scale use from wood pulp and cotton. Like plastic, cellulose can be manipulated to create a lightweight and strong material ideal for making sequins but with the added benefit of being compostable.

Related: Labo Mono turns plastic water bottles into Urban Jackets for cycling and everyday use

iridescent cellulose in a Petri dishvarious shiny materials arranged on a white table

The eco-friendly sequins were created by redesigning the shiny decorative discs from the base structure up. The crystalline form of cellulose was extracted to take advantage of the natural light refraction properties. Shimmering iridescent colors were then embedded into the material structure of the cellulose without the added chemicals typically used in sequin production.

close-up of iridescent, hexagonal sequincloth covered in iridescent sequins

“It is an entirely new way to approach color and finishes within the Fashion and Textiles Industry,” read the project statement, which noted the impracticality of recycling embroidery and the global challenges of microplastics. “Re-imagining the landscape of available materials that we have on this earth can allow for safer and more environmentally sustainable approaches to shimmering color. These approaches have the potential to outshine the previous options in a way that is more forward-thinking and innovative.”

+ Elissa Brunato

Images via Elissa Brunato