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Biomaterials: a brief guide to understanding its impact on fashion

What is a biomaterial and why is it interesting for the fashion world?

Biomaterials are materials with a biological basis. The term has not been developed in detail and it is used to designate both (totally or partially) bio-based materials, biodegradable materials, as well as bio fabricated materials.

Due to their natural origin, to a greater or lesser extent, all biomaterials lead to alternative benefits to the use of conventional plastics, such as reducing the carbon footprint and the water footprint, improved functionality or new qualities and solutions to the waste problem (Coppola et. al., 2021).

What types of biomaterials exist?

Biomaterials are categorized according to their biological/organic content or their production system. Thus, we have:

  • Organic-based materials (BIOBASED): are those that are totally or partially composed of biomass, which can come from both polysaccharides and proteins or lipids (Lackner, 2000). It is in the development of partially composite materials (bio synthetics) where the greatest problem is generated due to the fact that fossil derivatives are added as additives in their composition.

  • Bio fabricated materials and ingredients: they are produced by living microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and mycelium. These materials are ready to be used such as Kombucha nonwovens or Mycelium mouldings, this last one (like other fungal cultures) gives the possibility of also incurring in bio-assembly, where the constructive unions of an element are given by the links created by the same fungus. The ingredients instead are blocks left as waste by organisms that need a mechanical process to become a usable material.

Source: Lee, S., Congdon, A., Parker, G. and Borst, C., 2020. UNDERSTANDING“BIO” MATERIAL INNOVATIONS: a primer for the fashion industry.

What examples exist of biomaterials developed in the fashion industry so far?

MYLO UNLEATHER: Alternative leather made from mycelium.

BIOFABRICATE: Consultant. Driving sustainable biomaterials innovation for the global community of startups, brands, and investors, they provide consulting services, produce design-driven events, and are building a global resource platform to deepen engagement and interactions.

PIÑATEX: Natural textile made from scrap pineapple leaf fibre. The company is now a Certified B Corporation®.

ORANGE FIBER: a silky, sustainable fabric created from by-products of citrus juices.


Lee, S., Congdon, A., Parker, G. and Borst, C., 2020. UNDERSTANDING“BIO” MATERIAL INNOVATIONS:a primer for the fashion industry. [online] p.6. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 June 2021].

Lackner, M. (2000). Bioplastics. Kirk‐Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, 1-41. Recuperado de:

Coppola, G., Gaudio, M. T., Lopresto, C. G., Calabro, V., Curcio, S., & Chakraborty, S. (2021). Bioplastic from renewable biomass: a facile solution for a greener environment. Earth Systems and Environment, 1-21.

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