Shimmering sequins made of wood cellulose

With her project Bio Iridescent Sequin, designer Elissa Brunato developed a bio-based alternative to petroleum-based plastic sequins, made of wood cellulose.

The textile and fashion industries are some of the most polluting sectors in the world. While these industries are slowly introducing more sustainable materials, like plant-based leather, or fabrics made from waste materials, the embroidery industry is mostly reliant on beads and sequins industrially made from petroleum plastic and synthetic resins. Their use and disposal have huge environmental consequences and contribute to the microplastic issue. The recycling of these sequins is impractical, which means most of the sequins end up on the landfill, or worse, in the environment.

With her project, Brunato responds to the environmental impact of sequins. Using bio-technological research, she extracts the crystalline form of wood cellulose, turning it into a lightweight material as strong as plastic. The material imitates the iridescent visual effect of beetle wings without the need for added chemicals.

Working alongside Material Scientists Hjalmar Granberg and Tiffany Abitbol from the RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Brunato used the material to create sequins for embroidery, that use wood’s ability to form structures that refract light. After use, the sequins are compostable.

“Re-imagining the landscape of available materials that we have on this earth can allow for safer and more environmentally sustainable approaches to shimmering colour,” Brunato says.“These approaches have the potential to outshine the previous options in a way that is more forward thinking and innovative.”

Photos: Elissa Brunato