[bio'nd] Materials & Fashion
New, bio-based textiles and materials are increasingly forming the basis for everyday consumer goods. To this extent, they offer opportunities, but also create new challenges. The perspective on innovative textiles and materials not only sensitizes the perception of current ways of producing and consuming products, but at the same time offers a new perspective on how people might produce and consume in the future.
Digital Gallery
The following student research projects illustrate possible bioeconomic futures that are already being explored in experiments. These are to be understood as experimental search movements – the first approaches to possible futures. In these possible futures, economic activity is to be realized according to the principle of a sustainable bioeconomy, while being able to address social and ecological questions at the same time. Students from various universities present their work in pictures and text.

Jannis Kempkens
Kunsthochschule Weißensee Berlin

Biodegradable materials

Material: coffee grounds, orange peel, potato peel, cooked tea leaves, chitin, wheat bran;
Year: 2019 (Beyond Plastic), 2018 (Plasticula)

Photos © Jannis Kempkens

By now we know that plastic is everywhere. Even in places we don't want it to be. It's in the water, it's in the soil, it's in animals and children. I want to change something about that. That's why all my projects are focussed on biodegradability. So that whatever anyone will leave behind will disappear and go back into the natural cycle.

In “Beyond Plastic” we create alternatives to single-use plastic products from food left-overs like used coffee grounds, squeezed orange peels, peeled potato skins, boiled tea leaves or simply: whatever is around you. We design machines, techniques and systems that enable you, wherever you are, to easily start your own workspace for biodegradable products and share all of the necessary resources open-source online for free.

For “Plasticula” I work with a growing team of insects on transforming plastic foam into a new material. Mealworms, who are the larvae of a darkling beetle, are used to digest styrofoam and compost it, while their left-overs (aka. the dead beetles) are used to create a new material based on their main ingredient: Chitin. This new material is a clear foil that can be used instead of synthetic plastic packaging.

Jannis Kempkens

The project “Plasticula” by Jannis Kempkens was developed within the greenlab - Laboratory for Sustainable Design Strategies at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin. The project “Beyond Plastic" was supported by greenlab.

Esther Kaya Stögerer
and Jannis Kempkens
Kunsthochschule Weißensee Berlin

Black liquor - potentials of the black liquor
Material: Lignin, sawdust, wood shavings, wood fibres, recycled cellulose, coffee grounds;
Year: 2020

Photos © Esther Kaya Stögerer & Jannis Kempkens
Black liquor is a material that is largely underestimated. In Germany 98 % (= 50 million tons per year) are incinerated. The by-product of the paper industry contains a promising biopolymer: lignin. As the second most common polymer on earth, it could play an important role in the development away from petroleum-based substances and towards biobased substances. In BLACK LIQUOR, we have joined forces with the Fraunhofer WKI wood research institute to develop new approaches as to how the polymer can be used more widely in the future. The materials developed are harmless in production and use and are based on renewable raw materials and industrial by-products. They thus help to transfer previous waste streams into new material cycles and prevent CO₂ emissions. This has resulted in a range of material properties and application possibilities: From solid board materials for furniture construction to flexible leather alternatives for the fashion industry.

Black Liquor addresses four target groups: end users, product manufacturers, materials researchers and designers. The development of a material library gives interested researchers and designers access to our experiments and results. It consists of an extensive archive and a catalogue. In this way we want to give the possibility to use our results for future material developments based on lignin and to build on our research.
Esther Kaya Stögerer & Jannis Kempkens

The project “Plasticula” by Jannis Kempkens was developed within the greenlab - Laboratory for Sustainable Design Strategies at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin. The project “Beyond Plastic” was supported by greenlab.

mujō (Malu Lücking, Juni Sun Neyenhuys, Annekathrin Grüneberg)
Kunsthochschule Weißensee Berlin

Anicca - impermanent plastic materials
Material: alginate (brown algae);
Year: since 2018 (coming soon)

Cooperation partners (TU Berlin, polymer physics ): Prof. Dr. Auhl, Andreas Salomon, Konstanze Schäfer

Photos © mujō
Does the longevity of materials equal their value? Does their indestructibility testify to quality? Does material consumption inevitably mean leaving traces behind? The “Annica” project is dedicated to the question of what remains after we have replaced our telephones with newer models or swapped our clothes for the latest trends. Synthetically produced materials such as polyester leave traces and thus problems, not least because of their almost unlimited lifespan. At the moment when the life of the material exceeds the useful life of the product, material remnants arise – in other words, waste.

Since the Industrial Revolution, regular consumption has become part of our western lifestyle. It is hard to imagine that most people will embark on a radical change in the production of goods and purchasing behaviour in the coming years. Thus, if the useful life of products cannot be extended because consumer needs are incessant, attempts could be made to shorten the life of materials.

The “Annica” project deals theoretically and practically with the positive characteristics of material instability. This is done through interdisciplinary research and design with the biological raw material alginate, which is obtained from brown algae. The biodegradability and natural circular capacity of this new material are the focus of the research. The design process experiments with the specific application possibilities on the basis of different processing methods.
Malu Lücking, Juni Sun Neyenhuys, Annekathrin Grüneberg

The project “Plasticula” by Jannis Kempkens was developed within the greenlab - Laboratory for Sustainable Design Strategies at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin. The project “Beyond Plastic" was supported by greenlab.

Youyang Song
Kunsthochschule Weißensee Berlin

Reinvent material with biowaste
Material: banana and orange peel, soy milk;
Year: 2018
Cooking New Materials (Video)

Photos © Youyang Song
“Cooking new materials” is a technique which aims to process bio-waste into a soft but yet robust leather-like material. The seemingly useless food waste is thus given a second life. Banana and orange peel or soy-milk are combined with a natural binding agent as the substrate. The resulting composite is fully biodegradable and can be easily reused after the re-cooking process. The result is a 100% biodegradable, waste-free natural product. Moreover, the bio-material provides similar toughness, durability and water resistance as normal leather material. Especially it conserves fruitiness smell, refined texture and feels very good on touch.It especially conserves the fruity scent, the refined texture, and it has a very nice feel to the touch.

The focus is not only in practicability but also the aesthetics and nature of environment-friendly materials. They are not merely preserving the environment but more help to restore the environment. The material offers new insights and outlooks for modern lifestyles, proper of those who want to fully enjoy the products they use on a daily basis in complete respect for the environment.

Youyang Song

The project “Cooking New Materials” by Youyang Song in cooperation with Design Farm Berlin and Re-FREAM is part of the greenlab of the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin.

Kira Zander
Lette Verein Berlin

Material: reed, organic cotton gauze, upcycled wool (with different proportions of new wool, cashmere and mohair); Year: 2020

Models: Lisa Herkenberg, David Ketels

Photos © Kira Zander
The “Momentum” collection focuses on the conscious and sustainable use of fashion and nature. It is dedicated to pausing and perceiving - the unique and multi-layered nature that is so precious to every single person, despite the fact that it seems so easily displaced by it in everyday life. “Momentum” captures this moment of inner life and nature and reflects its diversity and sensitivity. The focus is on reed plants that grow on flowing or stagnant waters and form a transition from land to water. In the context of the collection, reed also symbolizes a transition - in whose in-between the perception and reflection of the human being linger in a formative way.

In its multi-layered structure, the collection design is oriented towards the complexity of nature and thus outlines spaces that invite to pause for a moment. The lower layer is made of delicate organic cotton gauze, which is laid in irregular, organic folds and gives a moving play as soon as a light wind hits it. For the two layers above, eight kilograms of old wool sweaters, which were provided as part of the cooperation with Berlin's “Textilhafen” were processed into new textile surfaces. Further upcycled wool has found its counterpart in the form of three-dimensional structures that are crocheted or knitted. The look is rounded off by hats made of old Chinese reeds and wool.
Kira Zander

Anna-Luiese Sinning
UdK Berlin

re - black friday meets friday for future

Material: Scoby (bacterial cellulose);
Year: 2019

Photos © Anna-Luiese Sinning (design); Paulina Hildesheim (photo/editorial); Christine Sattler (photo/material studies)
The work >re< deals with the role of design between sustainability requirements and aesthetic economics. It is based on the assumption that non-consumption in a ‘surplus’ society is an unrealistic solution – especially considering that a reduction of consumption does not compensate the actual problems of harmful products. An approach is chosen that incorporates sustainable criteria into the design process in regard of the categories of material production, processing, and recycling and disposal processes. The chosen criteria support a positive change to the consequences of the final product but without aiming for reduction or abandonment in the design. Through a series of material experiments the use of a natural material called Scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) was defined. It is more commonly known as a health drink called Kombucha. As a textile product it has unique features – such as mobile cultivation, permanent reproduction or its transparent 3D fiber structure.

The result is a modified manufacturing process. The process begins with the sustaining growth of the material and ends in a water-based dyeing and gluing process of the developed allover ornament. The developed garments and accessories celebrate the ornament as a symbol of desire and self-representation and impresses by their “eco-balance”, through their composting and recycling capability. The project illustrates a positive vision of the future in fashion industry.
Anna-Luiese Sinning

Yihuan Yao
Kunsthochschule Weißensee Berlin


Material: Agar-Agar, Gelatine, Glycerine;
Year: 2019
Deliphane (Video)

Photos © Yihuan Yao
The “Deliphane” project examines renewable raw materials and looks for a substitute for short-lived packaging. The focus is on natural gelling agents from which fine, transparent films and papers are produced. Both are biodegradable, edible, water-soluble and can replace plastic packaging - for example for snacks, sweets or to-go products.

The main component of the developed material “Deliphane” is a combination of agar-agar and gelatine. Depending on the composition, the manufacturing process and the admixture of additives, the mouldability, hardness, elasticity, breaking strength and heat resistance change. Thin, transparent, coloured, weldable, foldable: “Deliphane” can be used in many ways. At the same timetime, it seduces with its materiality.

Yihuan Yao

The project is part of the project “Circular City: Mapping Berlin's Material Streams” at the greenlab of the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin.

Elena Sofia Stranges
Kunsthochschule Weißensee Berlin

KRÄUTERSTOFF - Herbal Fabric - A Second Life for Clothing through Plant Dyesn
Material: wild herbs (urban plants), vegetable waste, donated (or second hand) white textiles/clothing; Year: 2019

Photos © Elena Sofia Stranges;
Still life photos © Elena Sofia Stranges & Inga Masche

The project “Kräuterstoff” (herbal fabric) examines the question of whether it is possible to strengthen social structures through the collective valorisation of old textiles. In the current production and consumption system, sustainable design is embedded in and promotes a profit-oriented logic of exploitation. The series of “Kräuterstoff” workshops, organised in June 2019 in cooperation with the “Berliner Stadtmission”, explored perspectives of critical sustainability and promoted networking. Together with interested city dwellers, plants were collected, textiles sorted and dyed. The previously donated clothing was given a new value by dyeing it with wild herbs and vegetable waste. The results are new coloured textiles and unusual dyes from overlooked plants in Berlin's public green spaces. The aim of the “Berliner Stadtmission” is to realize several actions to save textiles from value-reducing processing and at the same time to invite artists and designers to deal with them creatively. The “Kräuterstoff” series is the first of these actions.

Elena Sofia Stranges

The project “Kräuterstoff” by Elena Sofia Stranges in cooperation with “Textilhafen - Berliner Stadtmission” is part of the greenlab project “8.0: Mapping Berlin's Material Streams” at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin.

Paula Keilholz
UdK Berlin


Material: starch-based water-soluble press fleece; Year: 2017

Photos © Kai Oh;
Models: Talin Seigmann, Jasmin Halama
The work “Venus0” encompasses two evening dresses that can be classified as “festive fashion”. Festive fashion often consists of high-quality materials and is elaborately processed. But despite their comparably high value, clothing for special occasions is often handled as a single-used product. Venus0 is made from a water-soluble material that is commonly used in surgeries. The starch-based press fleece is completely degradable. This choice of materials for “Venus0” illustrates how evening wear is treated as a disposable item in contrast to its high quality.

The idea behind “Venus0” is not to change the seemingly problematic consumer behaviour, but to deal with the manufacturing material in an innovative way. The choice of material turns the dress into an ecologically acceptable, disposable item and its decomposition becomes part of the ceremonial, one-time wearing of the dress. With regard to the part of the apparel industry, which is concerned with sustainable materials and manufacturing processes, it is assumed that the urgency and seriousness of the issue of sustainability curb the playful and fun aspects of fashion. This is often due to practical reasons such as the prioritisation of material innovation combined with scarce resources. However, there are also products whose design primarily communicates the sustainability of the product, which leaves creative design possibilities unused and can therefore trigger less desire among consumers.

Impermanence and permanent “newness” represent the core of fashion and make up a large part of its appeal. Our concept of luxury is also very much associated with the extravagant and the lavish. The choice of materials for “Venus0” makes this problem a strength in the fashion industry and preserves the desire for the new. The fragility of the chosen fabric shortens the life span of the dress, making it even more unique and thus more of a luxury item. The material, which at first glance seems completely unsuitable for making clothes, becomes appropriate when one considers how little most clothes are actually worn.
Paula Keilholz
Hack Your Fashion
If you would like to learn more about the possibilities of the bioeconomy in the area of ‘clothing & textiles’, please have a look at our partner project ‘Hack Your Fashion’. This project is organized by the HTW – University of Applied Sciences Berlin as part of the Science Year 2020|2021.
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All event materials can be found on the website of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.