Jesse Adler (Bio Design, 2023)Jesse Adler. Photo Tom Mannion, 2022

Jesse Adler

Shortlisted in 2023 for Bio Design

Jesse Adler fell in love with the natural world, in all its intricate and purposeful beauty, somewhere between the mechanisms of carbon-based reactions and quantum mechanics principles she studied during her bachelor’s in Biomolecular Science at The University of Michigan.

She realised that she was drawn to work beyond the confines of one discipline, in a way that empowers her to synthesise disparate concepts into converging ideas with applications beyond the lab. Since then, she has worked to foster her passions for science and sustainable innovation through design research and experimentation.

Jesse explored the intersection of science, innovation, and sustainable design as part of the MA Material Futures course at Central Saint Martins, studying the power of materials to combat the climate crisis and establishing herself as an interdisciplinary designer and researcher. Previous works explored design as a tool for activism within stigmatised spaces, such as researching the impact of single-use plastic-based menstrual products on the body and environment, while imagining the future of menstrual products made from biocompatible and sustainable materials.

As a materials innovation researcher in the fashion industry, Jesse assessed the landscape of emerging sustainable materials while identifying under-innovated areas, such as sources of renewable colourants. Guided by her scientific background and circular and regenerative design principles, she searched for natural solutions and stumbled upon the phenomenal world of fungi.

In her master’s thesis, Jesse collaborated with fungi to challenge humans’ relationship with colour as it intersects consumer industries, with a particular focus on the textile, food, and cosmetic industries, while valorising fungi and their chemical extracts. To demonstrate the viability of fungal pigments and their potential to reduce or replace our dependence on non-renewable colourants, such as minerals and fossil fuels, she created a makeup collection using pigments she extracted from ethically foraged and lab-grown fungi.

Jesse continues to research fungal pigments as the first Future Materials Research Fellow at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, working between the studio and the lab to validate the sustainability and properties of the pigments and explore applications that support the transition towards more sustainable colouration practices across consumer industries.