When a Tômtex product reaches the end of its life, it can be either recycled or left to biodegrade
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Spotted: The New York-based Vietnamese designer Uyen Tran has developed a leather alternative made from food waste.
The flexible bio-material, named Tômtex, is durable while remaining soft enough to be hand-stitched or machine-sewn. It can also be embossed with a variety of patterns to replicate animal leathers.
The product was named after a type of shrimp, in reference to the discarded seafood shells that are mixed with coffee grounds to create the textile.
Every year, up to eight million tonnes of waste seafood shells and 18 million tonnes of waste coffee grounds are generated by the global food and drinks industry. “The world is running out of raw materials, so [this is] why I want to repurpose these wastes into a new, accessible bio-material for everyday life to help people better understand the problem and contribute to making a change,” Tran explained.
The designer works with a supplier in Vietnam, who gathers waste shrimp, crab and lobster shells as well as fish scales, to extract a biopolymer called chitin from them. This is then combined with coffee waste from Tran’s own kitchen and from local cafes. Natural pigments such as charcoal, coffee and ochre to create a variety of colour options. After mixing all the ingredients, the bio-material can be poured into the mould where it is air-dried at room temperature for two days. Unlike most textile practices, no heat is required during the process.
Written By: Katrina Lane