Biocouture founder Suzanne Lee and KombuchaCouture founder Sacha Laurin have designed a way to use the bacteria commonly referred to as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacterial Yeast) — used in making the fermented tea drink, Kombucha — into a leather-like material for clothing. I must say, when I first saw this, I kicked myself a little for not thinking of it before!
I have made Kombucha plenty of times and often found myself swimming in too many SCOBYs. The market is too saturated to sell online or even try to give away, so I always threw them away or composted them. But, from now on, I won’t be throwing them away!
One of the nifty things about a SCOBY is as it grows, it takes on the shape of the container, floating on top of the tea. This means you can grow the “leather” in any shape or size your container allows for! Grow it in a heart-shaped container to make heart-shaped patches, if you’d like. The only limit is your imagination!
So, what kind of “leather” can a SCOBY produce? And, how useful is it? Well, once cured, the materials can range in texture from a really thick, leather-like material that is strong and durable or even as thin as something like papyrus. The biggest drawback is the material (similar to animal leather) is not water-resistant in the slightest in its natural form. In order to make it resistant to humidity, sweat, and the occasional rain splatter, you can simply coat the material with beeswax or essential oils.
If you’re interested in experimenting with this material in your crafts, it is very easy to get started! There are tons of resources online that show you how to grow the SCOBYs, dye it, shape it, and make it more durable. If you have ever tried it, I would love to hear about your successes, tips, and tricks!
Is it commercially viable for mass production, yet? Yes, and no. More research into environmentally-friendly ways to seal the material while maintaining its biodegradability. Otherwise, wearing it in humid weather can make it sticky and fall apart. But, as research progresses, we may soon see these products lining the shelves.