Living Colour is a biodesign research project exploring the possibilities of natural and sustainable textile dyeing with pigment producing bacteria.
Kukka wants to bring beauty to the world. Not only aesthetically but also socially and responsibly. Our work field, the fashion and textile industry, is one of the most polluting and exploiting industries worldwide. Kukka wants to contribute to a new system, one that treats the planet and its inhabitants with respect and care.
Kukka’s vision for a sustaining future is one that is circular, renewable and biobased.
Bacterial dyes can be an alternative to toxic textile dyes. The pigments some bacteria produce are biodegradable and friendly to humans, animals and the environment. Together with scientists we investigate optimum growth conditions for bacterial pigments, ways to scale the dyeing process and the possibilities of growing bacteria in patterns by subjecting them to sound frequencies for example.
The bacteria dye process uses no toxic chemicals, little water, low temperatures and could add beneficial characteristics like an anti-bacterial function to fabrics.
Growing bacteria as a dye factory could lead to a more sustainable way to colour the world.
The project started as a one-month collaboration between Kukka’s owner Laura Luchtman and Ilfa Siebenhaar in December 2016 when Laura and Ilfa met at the course Textile Academy at Waag Society in Amsterdam. From their mutual interest in bacterial pigments, cymatics and sustainability Laura and Ilfa decided to join forces. The designers occasionaly work together on Living Colour related bacteria dye projects and exhibitions.
In the cymatics research we explored the possibilities of growing bacteria in patterns by exposing them to sound frequencies. The resonance of sound frequencies is known to create geometric patterns in matter. This principle is called Cymatics. In solid matter these beautiful patterns are named Chladni figures and Faraday waves in liquids.
Together with sound engineer Eduard van Dommelen we set up a self-built sound installation in the biomedical lab of Rotterdam University and executed several experiments with different frequencies, bacteria and textiles. The results showed textiles dyed in a uniform all-over way with higher saturation than textiles that weren’t dyed using sound.
What’s very remarkable about bacterial dyes is that the dye fixes to almost any fibre, even synthetic fibres. We dyed (organic) cotton, linen, wool, (ahimsa peace) silk, Tencel, viscose, polyester, elastane, polyamide, Pyratex Health fabric and even mycelium by NEFFA and plant root textile by Diana Scherer.
Louise Fresco, chairman of the board of Wageningen University & Research, wore a circular outfit at the opening of the 100th academic year in September 2018. Five Dutch designers developed her ensemble. With Living Colour Ilfa dyed and designed a silk scarf from ahimsa peace silk to complete the outfit. During the centennial festivities we also presented a dyed pocket square to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. See the outfit and read more on the blog.
Living Colour is published in international media like Viewpoint Colour, Domus, Stylus, American Scientist, Fast Company, Munique Magazine, Ecotextile, Sourcing Journal, Tactile Trends and Fibre2Fashion. Check out the media section for more press publications.
We have exhibited our textiles, research and process at various exhibitions and trade shows including Dutch Design Week, Material Revolution L.A., London Design Festival, Earth Matters at TextileMuseum Tilburg, Munich Fabric Start, State of Fashion Arnhem, Raw Assembly Sydney, Neuni x Design Shanghai, ColourNext at India Design ID Delhi, Future Fabrics Expo London and Neonyt Berlin.
Laura gave several inspirational talks about Living Colour, biodesign and sustaibility at Neonyt Berlin, Avantex Paris, TEDxRotterdam, BlueCity, VentureCafé, Colour Materialized Symposium, Natural Dyeing Symposium and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.