1. What inspired you to start dyeing textiles with bacteria?

We both met in September 2016 at the course Textile Academy at Waag Society in Amsterdam. In this course we had weekly workshops about ways to innovate the fashion & textile industry and to make the industry more sustainable. One of the workshops was textile dyeing with bacterial pigments. For our one-month end research for this course we decided to join forces; we exposed bacteria to sound frequencies in order to let them create patterns on fabric. After this one-month project we continued our research.

2. Is Living Colour a company or startup?

No, we are two independent designers and Living Colour is one of the projects we work on and the only project we collaborate on. Laura has her own textile & surface design studio Kukka and Ilfa is a fashion designer and biodesigner at Studio Ilfa Siebenhaar. Laura's studio is located in Rotterdam in fashion hub De Wasserij. Ilfa's studio is based in the heart of Amsterdam.

3. What is the goal of the Living Colour project?

Our goal is to explore a sustainable alternative to artificial textile dyes, bridge the gap between design and science and to establish an new natural colour aesthetics. We advocate for positive change and by doing so we prepare the market for a future where our clothes and textiles are dyed by bacteria.

4. Why use bacteria to dye textiles?

Textile dyeing and treatment with toxic chemicals is a huge worldwide problem. Bacterial pigments are biodegradable and produce a dye that requires little water and low dyeing temperatures, without the use of any toxic chemicals or textile treatments. In addition bacterial pigments have great characteristics like anti-microbial and UV-protecting qualities. Compared to other natural dye resources, bacteria don't need vast amounts of land, water, time and pesticides to grow.

5. Can you share your knowledge of the dye process with us?

Laura wrote an open-source book to share our Living Colour research with others. The book contains a lot of information about our research and gives insight into the (design) process. You can read it for free on Issuu. For dyeing workshops you can check out the course Fabricademy or contact your local Open Bio Lab.

6. Where do the bacteria come from?

Our naturally occuring bacteria can be found in soil near the roots of plants, in rivers & ponds and even on our skin.

7. Are the bacteria dangerous?

No, the bacteria we use are non-pathogenic (biosafety level 1), that means they cannot cause infections or disease in humans. Did you know that the pigment is also used for medical purposes? The purple pigment can treat leukaemia for example. Awesome right!

8. Which fibres can be dyed with bacteria?

Both natural and synthetic fibres can be dyed with bacteria which is quite remarkable, because normally natural dyes don’t fix to synthetic fibres. We have also tested other materials like MycoTEX by NEFFA, Mylium, plant root textile by Diana Scherer, felted wool by Beatrice Waanders and Pyratex Health fabric.

9. How long does your dyeing process take?

Within three to four days the bacteria have both produced the dye and dyed the fabric.

10. How many colours can bacteria produce?

The colour depends on the bacterial strain that produces a certain colour and also on the material we dye. Other factors that can influence the colour result are nutrition, oxygen, temperature, pH, light, etc. There are many different pigmented bacteria out there that together can produce every colour of the rainbow. Every dye process shows different results, so each piece is truly unique.

11. Can I order bacteria dyes, bacteria or dyed textiles?

No, we are not a dye service, nor do we supply dyes or bacteria for your projects.

12. Where do you get your textiles from?

The textiles we dye are either deadstock fabrics or we get sponsored by or buy them from sustainable textile suppliers like Seidentraum, Pure Fabricz, Ecotex or Neidig.

13. Are you open to collaborations?

Yes, we collaborate on high-end custom design projects, like the PUMA x Living Colour Design to Fade project. Get in touch with Ilfa to discuss your project.

14. Student inquiries

Because of the high number of student requests, we are unable to grant interviews, samples, internships, etc. There’s plenty of information on our website to help you with your studies, like interviews and podcasts on our timeline. Feel welcome to quote from it!