The mantra ‘do one thing well’ has been around for as long as the idea of entrepreneurship itself. It’s a commonly held belief that the world’s most successful people gain ground by focusing in and sticking to their guns. As always, though, there’s an exception that proves the rule. Post Carbon Lab founders, Dian-Jen ‘DJ’ Lin and Hannes Hulstaert make a point of doing the opposite. The pair describe their business as a “transdisciplinary research studio”, which mixes their expertise in scientific research and applied design to create new sustainable technologies.
Over the past three years, their work has taken them from presenting photobioreactors (which use light to cultivate photosynthesising micro-organisms) at London Design Festival to creating digital solutions for refugees looking for freelance work in Jordan, and as residents at biolab startup OpenCell in London, they’ve experimented with bacterial pigment dyeing. Now, they’re biohacking textiles to create clothes that absorb carbon. “We’ve been through quite a journey to get here,” Lin laughs, explaining that the unique service they provide now – which has generated an international waiting list of clients – started as a mere side project.
Early in their careers, both Lin and Hulstaert spent years training in costume and fashion, and architecture and film respectively. “In our original professional settings, we both felt like we weren’t given the space to translate our values into tangible outcomes, which is why we started Post Carbon Lab on the side,” says Lin. “Nobody knew what sustainability was back then, or how to talk about it.” She visited clothing factories in Vietnam and Indonesia, and was appalled by the conditions she saw. “Fashion promised so much – glamour, beauty, joy – but didn’t deliver on that for me. I was working in a part of the industry that is horrific for people and the planet.” Soon, she realised that: “the things that don’t make sense to me, don’t make sense to the general public, either.”