TED Fellows » TED Fellows Network » Suzanne Lee

Suzanne Lee

Fashion designer

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Suzanne Lee

Professional Role

Current Titles:

Founder & Director Biocouture Ltd.

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? – present
BioCouture started as a research project harnessing nature to propose a radical future fashion vision: Can we grow clothing? Instead of plant-based forms of cellulose like cotton, BioCouture explores the use of cellulose-producing microbes to brew biodegradable garments. The ultimate goal being to literally grow a dress in a fermenting vat of liquid... Since this first vision the project has broadened in scope to consider growing microbially-produced materials for varied applications. The project now proposes a holistic system in which we might take a waste stream as a nutrient source to feed microbes whose by-product is a material that can be directly shaped into a consumable product that can be composted and feed nutrient back into the soil. While there is still work to be done on perfecting a recipe and the scale-up of production, I'm also interested in how such a system might be exploited in low-tech environments, for example developing countries where the process could actually provide food, a health drink and material all from one process.
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Book: Fashioning The Future: tomorrow's wardobe
? – present
Hardback 2005, Paperback 2007 After years of researching wearable electronics, new production systems like 3D printing and designers working in labs, I decided to turn my personal research into a resource that could be shared with students, other designers and anyone interested in the technological future of fashion and textiles. Astonishingly no book existed that charted both the history of technology and fashion along with contemporary R&D developments. So this book was born! At the time fashion and textile students were still largely unaware, even uninterested, in what science and technology might offer to their creative endeavours. I knew I had to produce a book that would be visually seductive to grab their attention, present lots of new visions coming to fruition and include comprehensive contacts and resources. I managed to persuade a top international creative team to work with me on all the visuals and art direction: Warren du Preez & Nick Thornton-Jones. Their clients include Issey Miyake, Björk, Massive Attack, Boucheron, Cacharel, Hermès, Nike and Sony. My research assistant Marketa Uhlirova was fantastic at helping to enrich the historical research finding some amazing, never before published, images dating back to the C19th. She now directs and curates the highly respected 'Fashion in Film' festival. (http://www.fashioninfilm.com/about.htm) The book takes the form of 10 hypothetical garments, each one profiling an emergent technological field. From spray-on dresses, growable suits and talking t-shirts shirts to shape-changing skirts and self-organising raincoats, each future fashion image acts as a trojan horse for imparting scientific and technological information to non-scientists and luddites. It is exciting to now see design students from all fields readily engaging with science and technology and indeed this is crucial if we are to produce informed designers who can responsibly address future consumer needs and sustainability. If I ever get around to writing another book it would be about biology and design, all thoughts welcome!
Project Website »


Suzanne trained as a fashion designer at the prestigious Central Saint Martin's School of Art in London (CSM) gaining a First Class Honours degree. She has worked for hi-end designers including Jenny Packham, consulted for innovative labels like Hussein Chalayan and was Creative Director of Hamish Morrow for seven years pioneering 'Sport Couture' - one of the first high fashion brands to introduce performance nano-finishes to luxury fibres like silk. Suzanne returned to education to complete a Masters in Digital Arts, studying C programming to create wearable electronics and interactive installations such as her digital catwalk. Digital Runway toured internationally from the ICA London, the Kunstlerhaus Vienna, CCA San Francisco and The Box in Mexico City. Suzanne has written for trade magazines and journals on fashion and technology and curated for The British Council, notably the fashion section of 'Lost & Found: critical voices in new British design', a european touring exhibition. She has taught and lectured for the last fifteen years, and until recently was a Senior Research Fellow in Fashion & Textiles at CSM. She is now pursuing her BioCouture research project with partners including Cambridge University and Tufts. BioCouture has been widely exhibited including the V&A Museum and Science Museum in London and the Museum of Modern Art, MUDAM, Luxembourg. BioCouture was listed in Time Magazines's Top 50 Best Inventions of 2010 and featured in The New York Times 10th Annual Year in Ideas. Suzanne is the author of 'Fashioning The Future: tomorrow's wardrobe' published by Thames & Hudson.

Fun facts

Favorite meal:
Fish and chips or a good curry.

Vital Stats

Fellows Class
2012 TED Senior Fellow
Living in
London, United Kingdom
Working in
London, United Kingdom
Born in
Essex, United Kingdom



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