The 13th Floor

Designer Experimenting With DNA to Create Human Skin Clothing

Just yesterday, we told you about a man who used actual human brain juice to get high, and this story’s a perfect follow-up. Although the details are a lot more sophisticated, and don’t involve any criminal activity (that I’m aware of), the concept behind this story is actually a bit creepier.

This particular approach to using human skin as fabric comes not from a serial killer like “Buffalo Bill” from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (pictured above), but from Tina Gorjanc, graduate of Design at Central Saint Martins in London, who is working on the concept of creating lab-grown “Human Leather” as part of a broader plan to develop cruelty-free “real” leather materials.

Gorjanc’s project is bold enough on the surface (no pun intended), but she’s managed to shock the fashion world (not to mention everyone else) by proposing that her first collection of clothing crafted from human leather fabrics would be derived from the DNA of another Central Saint Martins alumnus: award-winning fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who once created iconic outfits for David Bowie, Lady Gaga and Björk, to name just a few. McQueen tragically committed suicide in 2010.

Gorjanc, whose earlier experiments involved using pig skin, is using genetics to take one of McQueen’s own meta-concepts to the next level: since he incorporated his own hair into some of his own creations, the owner of one of those pieces has consented to donate one of the hairs to extract the genetic material needed.

In an interview with the UK’s Telegraph, Gorjanc explained that the process is called de-extinction: “A biological agent is applied to the hair in the form of liquid,” she explained, “and you extract certain genetic information from it… you use that information to reprogram already existing skin so it is the exact texture and color of the original source.”

She went on to explain how the lab-grown cells must then be “killed” by applying heat in order to create actual leather, which she claims is indistinguishable from the animal leather used for clothing.

“While the skin is growing in the laboratory, it doesn’t really look like skin, because we are just growing the first two layers,” Gorjanc said. “Visually, when you tan it and apply coloration to it, it can look just like leather.” She also mentioned that the skin can be modified with melanin to add freckles and moles… or even tattoos.

Not creeped out yet? Well, there’s more: Gorjanc claims human leather will actually be vulnerable to sunburn — meaning that if the material isn’t properly protected by heat and/or chemical processes (much like animal skin is “tanned” to make leather fabrics), you’ll have to spray down your human skin-suit with sunblock before going out.


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