Elissa_Brunato_Bio Iridescent Sequin_IMG

October 2020

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 Kirraly Antcliff

Bio IRidescent Sequin

Meet the London based designer and material researcher with a naturally dazzling creation here to prove sustainability and glamour are not mutually exclusive. 

With a decade of experience in the fashion industry from design, production, to development and specializing in embroidery design, along with a career that has taken her from studios in London to meeting manufacturers in China, India and Italy. Elissa Brunato is now a recent graduate of Central Saint Martins Material Futures program and creator of a non-toxic and waste-free solution for textile embellishments – introducing Bio Iridescent Sequin.

 Image Credit - Elissa Brunato | Close up of one Bio Iridescent Sequin prototype, featuring its natural
structurally formed colours and shimmer

 Image Credit - Elissa Brunato | Creating Bio Iridescent Sequin samples in the Bio-lab at RISE 

Made from renewable wood-derived cellulose, the Bio Iridescent Sequin receives its glistening appearance from the way its crystalline structure interacts with light. This unique bio-tech designed sequin is compostable, pigment-free and as strong as its plastic opponents, offering a promising alternative. 

 Image Credit - Elissa Brunato | Exploring Bio Iridescence through material samples created from Cellulose

Whilst captivating at first glance, conventional plastic sequins pose a threat to the environment at every stage of their life cycle, which Elissa recognised first-hand whilst conducting industry interviews with key players in various sectors prior to the development of the Bio Iridescent Sequin for her Masters’ thesis project. “These conversations made me understand the many ways that sequins end up in local waste streams of manufacture sites, garment factories, consumer usage, washing and disposal.”

With the hope of reducing the textile industry’s footprint, the dependence on fossil fuels and microplastic pollution, Elissa set out to develop an alternative without the use of harmful substances and has done exactly that. So, how did the concept of Bio Iridescent Sequin begin?

“Sequins are one of the most ubiquitous items used in the fashion and embroidery industry. Iridescent components in particular, gained a valued place in the UK originally through the trade of tropical beetle wings. These were the opposite of the petroleum-derived plastic sequin we know as a throwaway commodity today. Sewn onto garments those beetle wings were intriguing, vibrantly radiant, truly luxurious and last but not least naturally bio- degradable. Looking at how a beetle wing shimmers sustainably inspired me to approach the materiality of the sequin differently.”

 Image Credit - Elissa Brunato | The Bio Iridescent Sequin Material is engineered to refract light through its inherent structure 

Elissa first began her studies in Fashion Design at the Canberra Institute of Technology, in Australia’s capital state – and the part of the world Elissa grew up in before moving to London to begin her career. “The fashion industry has been an inspiring field to work in” Elissa shares, however also acknowledges the disconnection within the value chain that she has witnessed whilst travelling for work - “Some of these trips opened my eyes to the material dystopias global processes can cause and certain material choices back in the studio felt suddenly unjustifiable. That’s why I decided to interrupt my career in order to research and study in a space that would allow me to reimagine the material landscape of the fashion industry.”

 Image Credit - Elissa Brunato | An embroidered sample of Bio Iridescent Sequin, showing the sequins natural shimmering surface

 Image Credit - Elissa Brunato | An embroidered sample of Bio Iridescent Sequin, showing the sequins natural shimmering surface

Early support of Elissa’s vision and MA project came from industry expert and Sustainability Director of Stella McCartney Claire Bergkamp, in the form of support through mentorship. “Claire is extremely knowledgeable in circular material systems and how to embed them into a fashion company so it was really helpful to connect her insight with the knowledge I had been gaining of the industry. It was great to also have discussions about the importance and value of maintaining high aesthetics when designing in new materials for the Fashion Industry.” 

Together with Material Scientists Tiffany Abitbol and Hjalmar Granberg from RISE Research Institutes of Sweden the Bio Iridescent Sequin was developed, and is a positive example of the possibilities imaginable when using nature [from organism to ecosystem, product to process] as guidance for responsible design to create materials that work within the earth’s natural biological system. 

 Image Credit - Elissa Brunato | Sample of hexagon-shaped Bio Iridescent Sequin created in the lab

 "Since first presenting the Bio Iridescent Sequin at Milan Design Week and my MA graduation, the response from the Industry has been extremely encouraging”

 

 “Since first presenting the Bio Iridescent Sequin at Milan Design Week and my MA graduation, the response from the Industry has been extremely encouraging” and has led to Elissa becoming the winning recipient of the 2019 Creative Review Innovation Award and the 2019 TJJ Timber Innovation Award in the Innovative Timber University Research category and more recently, London’s Design Week 2020 Rising Star Award. In response to the various industries showing interest in new bio-materials, Elissa advocates “I want to encourage brands to continue to support small companies and young designers, it is only with their support that such new ideas will find a space to exist.”  

The Bio Iridescent Sequin is currently in the prototype stage and in the process of raising funds for further development. 

For Elissa, looking forwards “my focus for the future is on challenging the boundaries of how we make luxurious products, starting with the Bio Iridescent Sequin. Ultimately, I would like to see a shift from the dependence of petroleum as a colour and material resource and to see the fashion industry reduce its micro-plastic pollution.” 

“I want to encourage brands to continue to support small companies and young designers, it is only with their support that such new ideas will find a space to exist.”  

  Image Credit - Elissa Brunato | Embroidering a sample with lab-made Bio Iridescent Sequins 

“It is great to start at your own desk, stove, working bench and learn what material is by working with it using your hands and senses. However, don’t forget the real world is bigger than your room, and leaving your personal bubble to have critical conversations with other people is essential. So, dare to take that step and to also be wrong as this will only help you to find the right path.” 

  When asked what advice she would offer to prospective material innovators, Elissa expressed “It is great to start at your own desk, stove, working bench and learn what material is by working with it using your hands and senses. However, don’t forget the real world is bigger than your room, and leaving your personal bubble to have critical conversations with other people is essential. So, dare to take that step and to also be wrong as this will only help you to find the right path.” 

Written by: Kirraly Antcliff exclusively for RawAssembly

Instagram: @elissabrunato 

Website: http://www.elissabrunato.com/future_sequin.html

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