Slovak-born Zuzana Gombošová began experimenting with bacterial cellulose during her studies at the London-based Central Saint Martins art school. Now, working in conjunction with Indian product designer and producer Susmith, Gombošová has developed a unique new material made from bacterial cellulose and plant fibres, introduced onto the market under the brand name Malai.
After graduating in Mechanical Engineering from CET in 2011, Susmith C Suseelan moved to Bangalore to take a PG in Product Design. He completed his course from Indian Institute of Science. From there he shifted base to Mumbai where he met Zuzana. Both were inclined towards working with healthy and natural materials and in making and using eco-friendly products. In 2017 they both resigned from their jobs and moved to a small town named Channapatenam in Karnataka. There they hired a small house and started their detailed research in a nearby coconut processing unit there.
Susanna was already well versed in the field since her masters project was in Bacterial Cellulose. They spend over 6 months in Karnataka building their know-how and after that, moved to Allappey and started a firm named Malai in 2018. Malai – a newly developed biocomposite material made from entirely organic and sustainable bacterial cellulose, grown on agricultural waste sourced from the coconut industry. It is a flexible, durable biocomposite material with a feel comparable to leather or paper and Oils are used for waterproofing. They work with the local farmers and processing units, collecting their waste coconut water (which would otherwise be dumped, causing damage to the soil) and repurposing it to feed the bacteria’s cellulose production. One small coconut-processing unit can collect 4000 litres of water per day, which we can use to make 320 sq. meters of Malai.
As of now they only supply Malai sheets but having experimented with prototypes for its application in shoes, as an upholstery material, and more, they are eager to venture into other domains and collaborate with interior designers and furniture designers as well.
Finding a recipe for an alternative material that has properties similar to leather is no easy task. But promising materials, including Malai, are being developed in studios, kitchens, and scientific laboratories around the world. A wide scope of interdisciplinary knowledge is essential. This new field of human engineering is being filled by numerous designers, eager to take a progressive approach to material development, emphasising not only aesthetic beauty, but also biodegradability and sustainability.
To find out more visit: http://made-from-malai.com/