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Fungus, bacteria become unlikely fashion agents
11
Mar '16
Courtesy: Sapta Soemowidjoko and Nidiya Kusmaya/The Jakarta Post
Courtesy: Sapta Soemowidjoko and Nidiya Kusmaya/The Jakarta Post
Two master's students from Indonesia's Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) have developed items colored with fungus and bacteria, including those that can be easily found in the bathroom. For the duo, the exercise is an attempt to spark the country's interest in sustainable fashion movement, The Jakarta Post has reported.

If black mold on a shirt collar is allowed to grow further, it ends up giving a splash of new color to an old shirt.

The idea may sound silly, but that is exactly what Nidiya Kusmaya had in mind when she started her final thesis at ITB.

She discovered the hidden beauty of Aspergillus niger, a micro fungus responsible for the black mold on damp clothes.

“People see Aspergillus niger as something disgusting, something to avoid. In fact, the fungus is valuable; it can act as a pigment producer in textiles,” said Nidiya, an awardee of the leading scholarship from the Foreign Cooperation Bureau (BU BPKLN) of the Research and Technology and Higher Education Ministry.

Aside from the black Aspergillus niger, she also cultivated two other fungi: the orange Monascus sp. and the white Trichoderma.

Nidiya also experimented with Serratia marcescens, a red and pink bacterium that usually grows in the corners of bathrooms.

“It can cause infections, but using it as a pigment producer is safe,” she said, adding that garments coated with the bacteria were sterilized at an elevated pressure and temperature in an autoclave.

Nidiya only uses natural fabrics like silk and cotton because they can withstand the heating process.
In one neckwear collection, she sprinkled different fungus and bacteria onto the fabric and let them form natural patterns.

“It appears that bacteria and fungus can communicate. When they meet, they create bold colors,” she said about her research, which was conducted under the guidance of ITB lecturers Kahfiati Kahdar and Imam Santosa.

In another collection, she orchestrated the bacteria and fungus to form batik and tie-dye patterns.

Based on her experience as a professional textile designer, Nidiya believes that fungus and bacteria could provide a new avenue for the fashion industry — the world's second most polluting industry, second only to oil, according to the Danish Fashion Institute in 2013.

“Coloring textiles requires loads of chemicals and it gives me a headache every time I need to dump the wastewater,” she said.

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