Interview: Lusi / TheLab by ElektroCouture

Lusi Ajonjoli is the head of TheLab, here at ElektroCouture. She is working on the intersection between material science and fashion – and ultimately aims to do accomplish one little thing: To completely change our views on bacteria, fungi and algae!

Lusi, please give us a short introduction

Hello! Yes, so I’m originally from Los Angeles where I studied Design Media Arts at UCLA. Alongside my professional work with multimedia design, I have also worked with soil science, kitchen science, and in fabrication labs. During the past few years I have been involved with garden composting projects, fermented edible goods and community sustained agriculture (CSA).

What got you excited about the idea for TheLab?

The idea of the appropriating scientific methods has directly influenced my decision work at TheLab. I am motivated to work on building TheLab so that others will be motivated to build their own lab as well! I want to dispel the fear surrounding bacteria and mycelia to further explore the potential of BioTech for our everyday material world. Specifically, BioTech has tremendous potential for carbon negative industrial production practices. This topic greatly affects the future of textile/clothing manufacturing.

Why do you think, scientists and (fashion) designers should work together?

Ultimately, scientists and non-scientists should work together for the sake of producing new knowledge. Knowledge sharing is the basis for knowledge creation and consequently the development of new, more sustainable systems. Already, I believe designers are scientists and scientists are designers, providing commonalities in process. To speak broadly, I would say science work struggles with communication and I’m certain design (of any kind) can help with that.

Is there already something like a “scene”/network of BioTech designers or are we still at the very beginning?

I would say that the consciousness of using design thinking in BioTech isn’t new but it’s gaining popularity and the meaning is stretching. BioTech, quite broadly, is applying biological phenomena to the transformation and creation of materials and other resources. I’m really interested in what’s happening in the Netherlands, where I see a lot of university/artist collaborations.

Join our BioTech community event! (Click here to rsvp)

Also, a large part of what I’m seeing is speculative and conceptual, however, quite positive. I say it is the beginning of shifting norms in society towards bacteria and mycelia. In western society, our advertisements praise cleanliness, sterility, as an ideal, so it will take some time to reverse that mentality before we can accept this scene to the fullest. For this we need to make more art, why not?

Who are you looking for/ would you like to connect with?

There are so many people we want to talk to! We’re interested in meeting people from the textile industry who wish to innovate with fibers, weave patterns, as well as waste. People who have ideas about carbon-negative design thinking, bioartists/biodesigners and scientists.

What do you aim to accomplish with TheLab?

We’re interested in shifting consciousness regarding consumption and sustainable models of production. As one approach, we’re looking at ways to make use of waste and excess as a catalyst for BioTech innovation. TheLab should be a safe space for ideas to dance around with our bacterial, mycelial, and algal friends.

THE K-LAPSE dress is one of our first creations at TheLab. (Click here for more information)

 What are you working on right now?

Now we’re going forward experimenting with mycelium and the use of different substrate, that is, what we ‘feed’ the mycelium. We’re figuring out how we can ‘train’ mycelium to ‘eat’ things like polyester to then produce a ‘new’ raw material. If anyone has more insight into this we’ll be happy to speak with you.

What materials do you use?

For this next phase, the use of semi-sterile environments is crucial to success. We’ve built a glove box for transferring cultures to minimize contamination.
We’re recycling small glass jars to use as petri-dishes, using as many everyday materials to make experiments.

What machines do you use?

The laser cutter and 3d machine from TheStudio has become useful for many small little jobs. Allows us to make faster custom solutions. Aside from this, most of TheLab till now has been very low-tech.

10 years from now, what do you think we can expect from bio-design?

I hope to see a more seamless integration of BioTech innovation with information technology. It’s already happening, which is great, but there needs more support, more scaffolding. The sooner we support this research and development, the sooner we all get a larger piece of the pie.

Traditionally, research and development is sustained by its economic imperatives. Biodesign R+D is unique because of its intersections, which undermine the economic power structures of today, such as capitalism. This forces us to look at the responsibility each global denizen has in the demands we create… particularly market demands. Sometimes, for something to live, something must die. Out with the old and in with the new; I welcome new economic structures based equity, sustainability and on the dynamism of globalism. Biodesign offers a new outlook for global abundance.

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