Microbiology and fashion may not be two terms that coincide with each other, but for Chanti Walker, those terms have become her passion.
Walker has been a fashion guru since she was a kid. She can remember sketching out ideas in church and practicing her sewing, though she claims to be no good at it. When she started out at Oklahoma State, she was a chemical engineering major, but quickly changed to microbiology.
“I enjoy the whole aspect of microbiology,” Walker said. “I like it because it’s one big circle of life.”
Moving to microbiology allowed Walker to pursue her idea of putting fashion and microbiology together. An idea brought to her by London-based designer, Suzanne Lee.
“I watched her TED talk three or four years ago,” Walker said. “Suzanne Lee makes bomber jackets and denim in Queensland, England. They actually make leather goods with microbial cellulose fabric.”
Lee is a researcher at BioCouture, a design consultancy that uses bio-materials for fashion, sportswear and luxury sectors. She believes that the future of fabric is being grown right now in her lab.
Walker’s inspiration also includes New York Fashion Week and the switch to streetwear.
“Streetwear is becoming one of the forward focuses of fashion,” Walker said. “Philip Klein, Gucci and Alexander Wang; they are starting to focus more on the streetwear fashion. I enjoy it because I love streetwear. It’s comfortable clothing and it’s not tight fitting.”
Walker hopes to do things in her own way. Her ideal line is to create designer dresses, suits and streetwear made out of cellulose fabric. She wants to create the fabrics and put her designs into a real-life setting.
Walker is currently looking for fashion internships to understand the workings of a full fashion company including selling and marketing. Her hope is to then create a lab that is big enough to mass produce her cellulose fabric clothing items.
During her time at OSU, Walker credits her professors in helping her succeed.
“Within the microbiology department, I think we have the best professors,” Walker said. “They are more interested in teaching you things that affect real life, rather than just teaching for you to pass the test.”
Walker will graduate with her undergraduate degree in December. From there, her future is endless and who knows? The OSU campus could be wearing “America’s Brightest Orange” in Walker’s cellulose fabric clothing one day.
For more information about Suzanne Lee’s clothing line, BioCouture, please visit the Dezeen website. Current or future OSU students interested in this type of work should enroll in the microbiology degree track.