No. 8

Bio Iridescent Sequin

By : Elissa Brunato

Entrant’s location : London


What did you create?

Through scientific engagement, Elissa Brunato created shimmering sequins for embroidery that are entirely made from plant-based cellulose. The colours of the sequins originate from the light refracting structure of this material. When light hits these structures our eyes perceive them as intense and vivid colours. Natures brightest colours, like those found in peacock feathers or beetle wings, are similarly created through microscopically small structures within the material. Unlike most existing dyes, structural colour does not fade in sunlight or over time. The material remains vibrant in colour, lightweight and as strong as plastic, yet is compostable and nontoxic. These structural coloured sequins present a sustainable alternative to traditional glittery colourants used within the Fashion and Textile Industry.

Why did you make it?

Within the current fashion and textiles system, the embroidery industry is limited by unsustainable material options. Most beads and sequins are industrially made from petroleum-based plastic and their shimmer is obtained through chemical or metallic coatings. Consequentially they are neither biodegradable nor recyclable and eternally lock toxic compositions of finite raw materials. Through case studies of suppliers, designers and users, Elissa Brunato found that these tiny sequins, normally 5mm in diameter, are leaking into our environment through all stages of our manufacture, consumer use and washing, to ultimately the disposal of garments. With the environment as final destination becoming a condition, redesigning the sequin meant that its material structure as well as its shimmering colours had to be restructured to fit within a biological material cycle.

How did you make it?

These Bio Iridescent sequins, from their structure to their iridescent colours are entirely made using one plant-based and renewable material. In combination with an organic fabric and yarn, this creates an entirely compostable piece. Elissa Brunato collaborated with material Scientists RISE, Research Institutes of Sweden. The focus of the work lays on the light refracting embroidery sequins, which have been created in a bio-laboratory. Here it is possible to control the unique feature of cellulose’s nanostructure, to give rise to shimmering colours and iridescence without any use of colour pigment or added chemicals. The colours of the sequins are nontoxic and produced from 100% wood-based cellulose. Unlike most existing dyes, structural colour does not fade in sunlight or over time. The material remains vibrant in colour, lightweight and as strong as plastic, yet it is compostable. The process of making the sequins involves forming them in different shaped moulds, so there is no excess waste offcuts produced. This is different from traditional methods of sequin production where sheets of material are stamped cut and the excess does not have a viable use. Using classical embroidery techniques, these bio iridescent sequins are hand-embroidered onto the fabric, supporting a rich tradition of hand crafted embroidery.

Your entry’s specification

I have several samples no larger than 30cm sq. Requires an acrylic case to be provided cover the work. Requires natural lighting or top lighting. Can also be shown in a hanging case.