Creating sustainable sequins

Elissa Brunato has developed sustainable sequins that shimmer without the use of chemicals. We talk to the designer – a runner up in the MullenLowe NOVA Awards, and winner of the Creative Review Innovation Award – about her work

For all their aesthetic appeal, sequins are pretty terrible for the environment. Most are made from petroleum plastics and synthetic resin – materials that are not only damaging to natural ecosystems but also to the workers tasked with sewing them on to garments by hand. Given the amount of sequins it takes to make a single garment – and the amount of sequinned items being made each year – this presents a pretty big problem.

But Central Saint Martins graduate Elissa Brunato is hoping to change this with her bio iridescent sequins. Brunato worked with material scientists at RISE Research Institutes in Sweden to develop sequins using cellulose derived from wood. By extracting and manipulating the crystal form of cellulose (a substance found in the cell walls of plants), Brunato and her collaborators have created sequins that shimmer without the use of added chemicals. These sequins are as lightweight as their plastic counterparts but are completely biodegradable and can be grown in moulds in as little as 24 hours. 

Brunato is the winner of the 2019 Creative Review Innovation Award – a new prize founded in partnership with the MullenLowe NOVA Awards to celebrate creative projects which solve a problem. With her bio sequins, Brunato is hoping to help tackle a major issue in fashion and textiles – and show that natural materials can be just as beautiful as manmade ones.