Elissa Brunato (Materials Innovation, 2021)Bio Iridescent SequinEmbroidering a sample with lab-made Bio Iridescent Sequin using traditional embroidery techniques

Elissa Brunato

Finalist in 2021 for Materials Innovation

Elissa Brunato previously worked in embroidery design and production, where she witnessed some of the global and environmental implications of distantly-made design choices. While overseeing production sites and artisanal workshops in India, China and Italy, she learnt that whilst design decisions are made primarily in regard to aesthetic and economic values, the consequences often create unnecessary waste at multiple stages of manufacture, damaging the environment and exposing workers to hazardous materials.

In 2019 Oxfam reported that 33 million sequined garments and accessories would be purchased (UK) over the festive period with 7 million ending up in landfill and ultimately contributing to micro-plastic pollution. In response to this, Brunato produced bio-iridescent sequins made from wood-cellulose – the most abundant plant-based polymer.

Alongside her physical experimentation and collaborative approach to designing materials, Brunato finds it important to consider surrounding systems and the wider social, political and geological context of materials. She has also engaged with the issue of single use takeaway packaging by developing compostable alternatives out of waste bran from the baking industry, and proposed the manufacture of recyclable Circular Socks, in which different fibers are clearly distinguished from one another in order to be separated.