Strange but true


A vegan shoe that dyes itself
I
n recent years, microbes have been used to grow various sustainable textiles. Now, for the first time, scientists at Imperial College London have gone a step further, genetically engineering bacteria to produce a faux leather that dyes itself. Using chemical dyes is one of the most environmentally toxic processes in fashion – and the black dyes used on leather are particularly harmful. The researchers began by taking bacteria that naturally make cellulose, a strong but flexible material, and modifying them to produce a black pigment on demand. The microbes were placed over a mould where, over two weeks, the cellulose they made took on the shape of a shoe’s upper. The shoe was cream in colour but, by shaking it at 30°C, the scientists activated the bacteria to produce the pigment. Bacterial cellulose is vegan friendly and can be made with a fraction of the emissions, water, land use and time needed to farm cows for leather, said lead author Prof Tom Ellis. And the fashion verdict? While “not exactly desirable to the mainstream”, said Stephen Doig, men’s style editor in The Daily Telegraph, “the new shoe is a step in the right direction.”
No bar to sermons
A priest in Sardinia has started giving sermons in local bars to reach those who have stopped going to church or who only go for special occasions. “My vision of religion has never been one of operating behind the closed doors of a sacristy,” Father Antonio Maria Cossu explained. “People have welcomed this proposal, they listen to me with sympathy and respect for 40 minutes or so, and at the end we have one or two beers together.”
The top seller
Yayoi Kusama was named as the world’s top selling contemporary artist. Works by the 95 year old, who is known for her fascination with polka dots, sold for a total of $80.9 million at auction last year. By contrast, David Hockney, who took the top spot in 2022, sold $50.3 million worth of art.
Conversational bonus
A restaurant in Italy is offering a free bottle of wine to customers who are willing to relinquish their phones for the duration of their meal. Angelo Lella, the owner of Al Condominio, in Verona, said that the aim was to encourage diners to talk to one another. “There is no need to look at your phone every five seconds,” he said.
Bons mots
“The best fame is a writer’s fame: it’s enough to get a table at a good restaurant, but not enough that you get interrupted when you eat.” – Fran Lebowitz, author, social commentator and actress

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