• 05.20.14

Watch This New Documentary About The High-Tech, Sustainable Future Of Fashion

Fabric grown from bacteria. T-shirt designs that “refresh” themselves. Or how about a new way to dye fabrics without water or pollution? These are ideas for the future of fashion that blend style and sustainability.

Watch This New Documentary About The High-Tech, Sustainable Future Of Fashion

The fashion world tends to look forward no further than the next season, and sometimes less. “Fashion is concerned with what’s happening in the next five minutes,” says Suzanne Lee, founder of Biocouture, a company that’s trying to do the opposite: Rather than focusing on temporary shifts in color or style, she’s thinking decades ahead and fundamentally reinventing how clothing can be made.


The designers from Biocouture, along with a handful of other future-focused clothing companies, are featured in the new 45-minute documentary The Next Black, which you can watch above (skip through the lengthy intro to the actual beginning at around 1:30).

Biocouture is growing new fabric from bacteria using a process more like brewing beer than making any other textiles. The company hopes that eventually clothing could be grown directly on dress forms, creating zero waste. On another end of the spectrum, the film also talks with a designer from Adidas, who explains how the future of wearable tech will go far beyond wristbands.

Studio XO, a company pioneering interactive digital fashion, shares their vision for a “Tumblr for the body”–a subscription service for clothing that could automatically refresh itself as you wear it (picture a T-shirt with an ever-evolving print curated by designers or your friends).

It’s fascinating stuff, and a thread of sustainability also runs through the film. We hear from the Yeh Group, which is pioneering a way to dye fabrics without water or pollution, and from Patagonia, which has asked its customers to buy less and learn to repair what they own.

Right now, American consumers alone buy around 20 billion pieces of clothing every year–more than one item every week. Making all of those clothes takes trillions of gallons of water and millions of tons of coal; something obviously has to change. This film gives a glimpse of a few ways that could happen.

The film was made by UK appliance manufacturer AEG and the production company House of Radon.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.