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Would you wear leather from a lab?

suzanne lee vegetable leather

Leather’s a challenge for a good greenie. It comes from dead animals, and involves really toxic processing. On the flip side, though, it just looks really cool; no existing alternative can match it on that front. A non-toxic, cruelty-free alternative that really looked like leather would probably fly off of the shelves.

British designer Suzanne Lee may be onto the next big thing, then, with her process for growing “leather” in a laboratory-like setting. No, this isn’t some creepy cloned animal hide without the animal; rather, Lee cooks up a blend of green tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast that grows into leather-like material. After two weeks, it’s ready to go, and can either be fitted onto a form for a garment, or dried and used like more conventional fabrics. No dead animals, period.

The one down side: Lee’s leather doesn’t last like the real thing. After five years, it starts to break down. But there’s even an upside to that: the material’s compostable, so you can throw your old jacket into the backyard bin.

Take a look at the BBC’s video from Lee’s lab, and let us know what you think: would this work for you as an ethical and fashionable choice? And if you’re really interested in her work, dig into Lee’s TED talk from last year.

via Ecorazzi

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Image credit: Screen capture from BBC’s Suzanne Lee video