Release Time: December 29, 2022

Designers: Jenny Lai (@not_aligne,, Lien X Tong (@lienxtong)

Design residency: Gem Studio Oakland (

Photographer: Jeff St. Andrews (@jeffsaintandrews)

Model: Sitalbanat Muktari (@simplyyfallingg_)

Agar bioplastic recipe from @Materiom_: by Alysia Garmulewicz

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The fashion industry produces 92 million tons of textile waste a year, with only 13.6% of clothes and shoes thrown away in the US getting recycled and less than 1% of the recycled made into new clothes. “NOT X LIENX” sought to create a capsule collection to explore this very problem.

Sideview landscape ©Jeff St. Andrews

Closeup sleeve ©Jeff St. Andrews

Lien Tong and Jenny Lai, two independent fashion designers who met at Rhode Island School of Design 12 years ago, asked themselves, how can we imagine and inspire a better future? Can the materials we wear and use be returned to the environment seamlessly? Can it be renewed and recycled? Can giving care and creativity to sustainable options change people’s perspective on them? How can we educate people on consuming thoughtfully?

Bioplasticnetskirt landscape ©Jeff St. Andrews

For Lien and Jenny, a decade of working in the industry revealed the complexity of the apparel supply chain and the difficulty of following the lifecycle and impact of the fabrics that were available to them. For full visibility into the production process, Lien and Jenny decided to make their own material from scratch using agar agar, a gelatinous powder made from red algae, glycerin, and water. Compared to synthetic fabrics that take hundreds of years to decompose, agar bioplastic decomposes in a few months and offcuts can be recycled to create new bioplastic - creating a fully circular system.

Fullbody backlit ©Jeff St. Andrews

Fullbody portrait ©Jeff St. Andrews

Together, they created a 3-piece couture look out of hand-poured agar bioplastic. The final pieces were presented in an open studio event and photoshoot. The garment’s decomposition and upcycling plan is still under design. The design residency took place June 2 – 16, 2022 at Gem Studio in Oakland, California.

Stilllife ©Jeff St. Andrews

Why bioplastic?

Petroleum-based plastics can take up to 500 years to decompose and the majority of single-use plastics end up at the landfill. On the other hand, bioplastic is a biodegradable material that comes from renewable sources and can decompose in as little as 2 – 4 months. The bioplastic created for these garments was made from 3 simple ingredients: agar agar powder (which is a derivative of red algae), vegetable glycerin, and water. The final look of the material is sometimes referred to as bioplastic “foil”. It has a translucent appearance and feels like TPU, and it is also edible. The integration of bioplastic can be utilized to reduce the use of plastics that have lasting harm on our environment.

Grainborder ©Jeff St. Andrews

How the garment was created

Lien and Jenny wanted to counter the perception of plastic as an undesirable material by treating the material through a couture lens, incorporating hand-craft and innovative surface manipulations. After heating the agar mixture and dyeing it with food coloring, it was poured into flat aluminum trays and left to dry for 3 – 5 days. The designers embedded different materials into the liquid, pleated, folded, cut, and glued the bioplastic into different shapes and textures. They kept all offcuts from their production process so that it could be boiled down and reused to create more bioplastic.

Blackandwhite bent ©Jeff St. Andrews

Blackandwhite ©Jeff St. Andrews

For the jacket, Lien and Jenny cut the bioplastic sheets into strips and glued them as loops to mimic a fleece or fur pile texture. For the top, they created a lace-like material where small irregular shapes were cut and pieced together to simulate the camouflage-like texture found on peeling tree bark. For the skirt, they embedded cotton netting into the liquid bioplastic so that when dried, the two materials became one.

# Product Design # 服装设计 # 可回收材料

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