Lining Yao and her team at MIT Media Lab, in cooperation with New Balance and some designers from theRoyal College of Art, have recently created a captivating research project: it is a new garment named “second skin” which gets trans-formed depending on the temperature and the humidity level of the person who is wearing it .

Fashion is now changing and this project is a further evidence”. I guess now it’s high time for us to rethink the way we are used to create fashion and the reason behind the creation of garments”, Oksana Anilionyte – the fashion designer who has been working at the project – has said. “Wearing these garments is a very unique experience: they literally come alive while wearing them”.

For her research Lining Yao has studied the bacterium Bacillus subtilis natto’s natural behaviour. It is a bacterium normally used in Japanese food (in particular in a soy dish for breakfast) and which reacts to atmospheric humidity.

Cells are organized in the cloth. They start reacting to any humidity level: as soon as humidity level starts going up, the edges start wrinkling, and they get completely spread when 100% humidity is reached, reaching the highest perspiration of the cloth.

Yao has affirmed: “Biology is the new and promising discipline for designers who can work with its versatility. Living beings, despite electronics, can be born, change themselves, duplicate themselves, divide themselves, die. Biology is a really powerful instrument, if you can control it”.

As for the case of “Second skin” the team from MIT has used natural natto cells . It means that cells have not been modified or redesigned to do something different from the natural enlargement and contraction activity. But Yao is already thinking about how designers in the future could modify the DNA structure of a cell to face more complex projects, such as the addition of biological luminescence to textiles or the creation of an anti-pollution textile.

“We are only at the beginnings but let me say: it is a very promising beginning”, Yao has added.

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