July 13, 2006

Sugar-based fashions star at Toronto biotech show

TORONTO (Reuters) - Models stalked the runway in designer
clothes made from fermented corn sugar on Thursday in a fashion
show held at an international biotech conference in Toronto in
an attempt to "make green sexy."

The one-of-a-kind outfits created by big name designers
Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Elisa Jimenez and others
included a strapless beige ball gown, a cream baby-doll dress
with ribbon and sheer overlay, and a pink and yellow taffeta
skirt with a silver recycled polyester bustier.

"There are three steps to get from the corn sugar to the
polymer, which is used to make clothing," Christopher Ryan,
chief technology officer of Natureworks LLC, the maker of the
"biobased" fiber, said after the fashion show at the World
Congress on Industrial and Biotechnology and Bioprocessing.

"First, the sugar is fermented into lactic acid, then that
is converted into lactide," Ryan said. "Then lactide is
converted into PLA, or polymer. It takes a matter of hours, but
longer than that to get through our plant."

PLA polymer is most commonly used as a plastic in packaging
for environmentally friendly products, but can also be used as
a versatile fiber that can be made to have the appearance of
silk, polyester, leather or elastic.

Natureworks, a subsidiary of U.S.-based agribusiness giant
Cargill Inc., has branded its PLA fiber as Ingeo, and is the
first company to use biodegradable polymers produced from
renewable resources for commercial products.

Other items on display at the fashion show included a men's
transparent dress shirt, a hooded pink floral fleece sweater, a
blue blazer and a strapless black dress.