Who she is: A British fashion designer and researcher who grows clothes in tubs of liquid. Sugar-fed bacteria spin tiny fibers to create a flexible cellulose material that Lee crafts into bomber jackets, vests, and other clothes.
Her background: Growing up, Lee loved fashion and science fiction. "I was always interested in what the fashion of the future might look like." She imagined a world of self-assembling raincoats and spray-on dresses in her book, Fashioning the Future: Tomorrow's Wardrobe.
Her Aha! Moment: At an art gallery, she struck up a conversation with materials scientist David Hepworth, PhD, who, intrigued by her fashion research, told her about bacteria that grow threads. "It was the wildest thing I'd ever heard," Lee says. "I immediately wanted to get in on that."
What's next: "The real challenge is to produce these clothes on a mass scale," she says. Rather than partner with traditional manufacturers, she's pursuing brewing processors, for their massive fermentation facilities. Up first: tote bags.
Breakthrough advice: "Play. My big breakthroughs happen when I'm open to possibility." —Rachel Mount