Vegan leather? Edible clothing? This sounds like science fiction, but Davis resident Sacha Laurin is making this a reality.
Laurin, a cheesemaker, has created a kind of fabric from kombucha, a green tea fermented with a culture of bacteria and yeast. The fabric is durable and its texture is comparable to leather.
“It’s a sustainable, truly vegan leather,” Laurin said. “I can create a jacket in a week that would take a cow a lifetime to create.”
The inspiration for the kombucha fabric came from Suzanne Lee, a designer in London who Laurin claims is the only other person in the world who is working in this field. However, Laurin approaches this from the perspective of a scientist rather than a designer.
“All of the things I have done in my life have helped make this possible,” Laurin said. “My cheesemaking career provides a scientific background, my family was very creative and artistic, and my mother was a seamstress.”
The process involves placing a piece of bacteria culture in some kombucha in a plastic tub. This forms a mat from the kombucha, which can be treated like fabric once dried.
Laurin initially began producing jewelry from the kombucha, which she first sold at the Whole Earth Festival in May 2013. This caught the attention of Heather Caswell, the owner of Davis women’s boutique The Wardrobe, who was attracted to its look and feel.
“People are drawn to the jewelry,” Caswell said. “I think that people are impressed with how original it is in terms of the material. I think they really love that it’s being made local.”
Laurin caught a huge break when she entered the 2013 Sacramento Film and Music Festival’s Fashion Challenge and won the audience award.
“The challenge this year was to make a piece of fashion that was inspired by a poem by Edgar Allen Poe,” Laurin said. “I was given ‘The River,’ which was a lucky break because my stuff is aquatic anyway. Kombucha lives in water.”
Laurin’s winning design was a mermaid dress, which was something that Sacramento Fashion Week director Duane Ram had never seen before.
“As a whole, nobody has ever done or even seen something like [kombucha fabric] before,” Ram said. “It will be something different for Sacramento, so I really wanted to bring it to Sac Fashion Week.”
Laurin’s prize for winning the Fashion Challenge was to be featured as one of the designers at Sacramento Fashion Week, which has exposed her to an entirely different world.
“As an educational officer for the California Artisan Cheese Guild, I know the cheese world but I do not know the fashion world,” Laurin said. “I’m out of my element here, but people have told me that this is how it should be. I’ll need help to complete this, since I have 12 items to create by February and I’m a cheesemaker and mother of three children, but I’m positive I will find this help.”
In the end, Laurin is grateful for the experience.
“This is the most special thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “I’ve helped create a new fabric that could easily be mass produced. I want the world to know.”
To view more of Laurin’s kombucha jewelry, visit www.kombuchajewelry.com.