Design to Fade is the world’s first sportswear collection dyed with & by bacteria. The prototype capsule collection designed for PUMA’s biodesign exhibition at Milan Design Week 2020 proposes a sustainable dyeing alternative and a new natural aesthetic, while challenging colour standards in industrial production. The colour of the garments and
shoes changes over time, enhancing the uniqueness of each garment and the activity of the wearer.
After more than 3 years of research with Kukka’s biodesign project Living Colour, we teamed up with PUMA Innovation to lead the way to a regenerative future.
The bacteria are responsible for a portion of the design and manufacturing, which involves no toxic chemicals. We use natural occurring bacteria that feed off nutrients and ferment these into pigments. The bacteria are cultivated on the textile itself, while dyeing it at the same time.
This live dyeing process leaves visible growth patterns on the fabric that are unique to each dye batch. To dye fabrics in an even colour the pigment is extracted from the bacteria and used as a dye.
We started the project with material trials where we tested a number of PUMA materials – such as rubber, leather, foam, and fabrics – with our dye protocols. These colour proofs were the basis and start of the collection.
The collection consists of six garments, that we based on PUMA’s iconic archive styles – like the T7 jacket, the retro running shorts and the windbreaker jacket – socks and shoes. We deconstructed the garment patterns and started designing new looks.
For this collection we were further inspired by the Red-backed Salamander. The bacteria we use protect this salamander from a deadly fungus. We used the fluid shapes of the salamander combined with gender-neutral silhouettes.
We worked with sportswear fabrics used in PUMA’s collections to ensure the PUMA signature and quality. Textiles from previous collections and textiles from overstock are used to keep the ecological footprint as low as possible. These fabrics are supplemented with ecological silk and hemp. The variety of moisture-wicking synthetics and natural fibres shows the many dyeing possibilities, with different tints and shades of the same colour.
Same as in nature, the colour of the textiles change with the seasons of the garment or shoe, enhancing the uniqueness of each garment and the activity of the wearer.
Design to Fade is part of PUMA’s (yearly) biodesign exhibition at Milan Design Week, where the company presents new ways to reduce the environmental impact of fashion and sportswear.
The Design to Fade exhibition features two projects: Living Colour and Streamateria (garments made of durable fabric but with an intentionally short lifespan).
Despite the fact that Milan Design Week was canceled due to covid, and the exhibition therefore only took place virtually, the design that was created with the Milanese studio Innovation by Design still deserves an honourable mention.
From the ephemeral nature of the exhibition, through the lifecycle of the products to the bacteria-employing colouring process – we embraced the design that fades gracefully.
Though none of these projects have yet reached a commercial stage, they are an important step towards making PUMA more sustainable in the future.
Design and Concept
Laura Luchtman, Kukka
Ilfa Siebenhaar, Studio Ilfa Siebenhaar
PUMA Innovation team
Kerstin Goy-Yun, Naht & Tat
Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences
Photography and Videography
Luna, Vida Models
Marvin Opana, Vida Models
Innovation by Design Milan
Fresno Art Museum (US)
Discovery Museum (NL)
Franz Mayer Museum (MEX)
Milan Design Week (IT)