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Living Station

Week 26
  • Living Station Inspiration

Natsai Audrey Chieza – Fashion has a pollution problem – can biology fix it?

Natsai Audrey Chieza is a designer on a mission — to reduce pollution in the fashion industry while creating amazing new things to wear. In her lab, she noticed that the bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor makes a striking red-purple pigment, and now she’s using it to develop bold, color-fast fabric dye that cuts down on water waste and chemical runoff, compared with traditional dyes. And she isn’t alone in using synthetic biology to redefine our material future; think — “leather” made from mushrooms and superstrong yarn made from spider-silk protein. We’re not going to build the future with fossil fuels, Chieza says. We’re going to build it with biology.

Why you should listen

Natsai Audrey Chieza is Founder and Creative Director of Faber Futures, a creative R&D studio that conceptualizes, prototypes and evaluates the next generation of materials that are emerging through the convergence of biology, technology and design. The studio advocates a shift in thinking away from resource extraction to material systems that are grown within the limits of our planetary boundaries. Working with partners in academia and industry, she is at the forefront of defining the future of design in the context of the Anthropocene at the advent of enabling technologies like synthetic biology.

Chieza holds an MA (Hons) in Architecture from the University of Edinburgh and an MA in Material Futures from Central Saint Martins. She began her career in design research at Textile Futures Research Centre (UK), while also pursuing her own research interests in biofabrication at the Ward Lab, University College London (UK). During this time she co-curated exhibitions and public programmes including Big Data, Designing with the Materials of Life 2015 (UK), Alive En Vie, Fondation EDF, 2014 (FR) and Postextiles, London Design Festival 2011 (UK).

Chieza has been a Designer in Residence at Ginkgo Bioworks (US), IDEO (UK), Machines Room (UK), Swedish Arts Grants Committee (SE), and the Ward Lab, University College London (UK). Her work has been widely exhibited at world-renowned galleries and museums, including the Victoria & Albert Museum (UK), Science Gallery Dublin (IR), Bauhaus Dessau (DE), Audax Textile Museum (NL) and at industry institutions like Microsoft Research (US/UK) and Fondation EDF (FR).

She has taught on degree programmes that are transitioning to biomaterials and sustainable design at Central Saint Martins, The Bartlett and Istituto Marangoni. Chieza’s own body of work on biopigmented textiles has been featured in a number of leading publications, including WIRED, Next Nature, IDEO, Huffington Post, Viewpoint, Frame, Domus, LSN Global, Protein and FORM.