Normal Phenomena of Life (NPOL) launches as the world's first-ever biodesign lifestyle brand. It introduces a unique platform to foster a culture focused on products that embody an environment-first mindset. The brand's debut is being celebrated with an exhibition and immersive talks at the Design District in Greenwich Peninsula as part of the prestigious London Design Festival 2023.
As a brand, NPOL is on a mission to place biology at the core of our creations, supply chains, and economic choices. It aims to replace industries reliant on limitless petrochemical-powered growth and honor nature as the original technology.
The company is achieving this by curating a range of biotech-enhanced products, including limited-edition prints crafted with algae-based inks, garments dyed with pigment-secreting bacteria, and lighting designed with bioconcrete created by microbes. These innovations have the potential to revolutionize outdated industries, challenging the notion that technological progress must prioritize hard steel over soft cells.
"NPOL offers a unique opportunity to merge cutting-edge biotechnology with standout product innovation and storytelling. As a consumer-facing platform, its power will be in driving both biotechnology and culture toward the systemic changes needed to address the climate crisis,” says Natsai Audrey Chieza, Co-Founder of Normal Phenomena of Life.
NPOL began as a collaboration between Chieza and leading synthetic biology company Ginkgo Bioworks. After jointly creating projects such as the Ginkgo Creative Residency (now in its 6th year) and the 2020 online video series Ferment TV, Chieza and Christina Agapakis, Creative Director at Ginkgo and fellow Co-founder of NPOL, aimed to expand the public reach of these initiatives and the ideas that emerged from them. The establishment of Normal Phenomena of Life as a direct-to-consumer brand brings biotechnology into the real world, catalyzing its transformative potential.
"Biology does something remarkable—it grows. NPOL helps us to grow our imagination of what might be possible when we design with biology," says Agapakis.
Exploring Jacket + Musette: This technical smock celebrates the endless possibilities of exploration and the boundless nature of life on our planet. The unisex jacket boasts voluminous pockets and a generous hood for adventures into the unknown. Designed with sensitivity, spirit, and joy in mind, the Exploring Jacket can be worn solo or layered during cooler months.
Crafted from 100% GOTS-certified silk batch-dyed with wildtype bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor, this NPOL Original is a collaborative effort between Mbeu, designer Louise Bennetts, and garment manufacturer Fabrika.
Lessons from the Living World: Breathe In Editions: Algae produce roughly 50% of the oxygen we breathe. Artist Kelvyn Smith pays tribute to these vital oxygen producers with a triptych of letterpress prints depicting the role of algae in converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. These prints utilize non-toxic, carbon-negative ink derived from algae waste biomass, a byproduct of phycocyanin, a natural blue food colorant. In contrast to petroleum-based ink, this ink is renewable, environmentally friendly, and carbon-negative, as algae absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen during growth. This NPOL Original results from a collaboration between algal ink manufacturers Living Ink and designer/printmaker Mr. Smith.
The inaugural NPOL Originals collection represents just the beginning of the possibilities offered by new biotechnologies and interdisciplinary collaborations. It arises from knowledge and process sharing among designers, biologists, engineers, materials scientists, and other practitioners whose disciplines are yet to be named.
In addition to these exclusive products, NPOL supports other creators in the biodesign space by featuring their products in capsule collections and exploring their groundbreaking stories in its journal—a space dedicated to delving into the emerging realm of biodesign and reconnecting the NPOL community with fresh ideas and philosophies related to the natural world.
The company encapsulates their ethos in a manifesto for conscious consumerism in the era of climate change:
"This is living.
The mother cell divides. And divides.
To create. 7.97 billion lifeforms. Lifecycles. Lifetimes.
It’s the grand strategy. The original technology. Amplified by the novel. It’s synthetic. It’s biology.
It’s a bacterium. A breath. A bud. A bloom. A bird. All beasts.
Microscopic miracles. Monumental moments. The subject. The author.
The search for the spellbinding. Where the Earth is electric. And something silent makes its mark.
It’s an ancient process that the future depends on. The promise to exist. To awaken. Move. Grow. And renew. Renew. Renew.
This is living."
NPOL explores innovative biotechnology possibilities that prioritize environmental and social impact, as well as utility and aesthetics. By conceptualizing and producing its limited range of NPOL Originals, NPOL demonstrates how ethical supply chains can be built from the ground up, promoting small-batch or custom-grown models that reduce innovation risks for all stakeholders, facilitating slow consumption and public co-design.