Ganni reveals a handbag made from bacterial leather at LDF.

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Danish fashion brand Ganni has collaborated with London biotech company Modern Synthesis to create a sustainable, one-off edition of its Bou Bag. The bag is made from a leather alternative developed by Modern Synthesis that contains no plastic or petrochemicals. It was showcased at the Material Matters fair during the London Design Festival.

The innovative bag was created by cultivating nanocellulose, a fiber produced by certain bacteria, over a framework of threads. The result is a textile that has the drape of cowhide but claims to generate up to 65 times less greenhouse gas emissions than real leather.

One notable aspect of the material is that it does not require any plastic coating for durability, unlike a previous bacterial nanocellulose jacket showcased by Ganni. However, the lining of the Bou Bag still contains plastic microfiber.

Both Ganni and Modern Synthesis are aiming to make the handbag commercially available by early 2025. Modern Synthesis CEO Jen Keane stated that collaborating on the Bou Bag has allowed them to demonstrate the viability of bacterial cellulose-based materials in real-world applications.

The production process for the material involves growing bacteria on a supportive scaffold of threads and feeding it with agricultural waste. The bacteria convert the sugar found in the food scraps into nanocellulose, which is around eight times stronger than stainless steel relative to its weight. Depending on the type of thread used, the resulting material can either biodegrade or be recycled like other cellulose-based textiles.

Modern Synthesis raised $4.1 million in seed funding last year to scale up its production, although full commercial scale is still in progress. Keane emphasized the company’s commitment to maintaining high-quality standards while producing the material in a sustainable way.

Modern Synthesis is currently exploring alternatives for the plastic microfiber lining used in the Bou Bag, with the goal of creating a 100% cellulose-based version.

Ganni has invested in various material innovations as part of its Fabrics of the Future initiative, including bacterial nanocellulose, mycelium leather, and banana waste fabric.

The Material Matters exhibition is part of the London Design Festival 2023, taking place from 20 to 23 September.

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