Is it art or science? Do I drink it or wear it?
A dress made from fermented red wine by scientist Gary Cass in the laboratories at UWA was the centrepiece of National Science Week in Sydney. The dress has also been exhibited at the Venice Biennale fringe festival.
Inspiration for the cellulose garments came when Gary noticed a skin-like layer covering a vat of wine at his friend's winery.
Living microbes are used to ferment wine down to a smelly sludge which, when moulded onto a mannequin and left to dry, creates a delicate cellulose fabric similar to cotton which Gary and his partner-in-art (or is it science?) Donna Franklin call Micro‘be' fermented fashion.
When Donna studied with SymbioticA, the art in science group at UWA, she created a living fungal dress. She and Gary teamed up in 2006 with a grant from ArtsWA to develop the idea of a totally new material that could one day transform fashion and the fabric industry.
"We've had a lot of fun," said Gary, who has a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and now works at UWA, "It's been an incredibly successful art project, but now I want to develop the science."
Gary said he wants to develop the material to become a viable, environmentally sustainable fabric option. "If somebody else takes it and gets it to that point, then I will still feel I've made a worthwhile contribution."