Matthew Fainor, ’20, studies biomaterials engineering and arts and product design in the Lehigh IDEAS program. Fainor is interested in biofabrication and sustainable manufacturing.(Courtesy of Christina Neu)

Matthew Fainor makes everyday items into accessories


A kitchen knife can offer utility or danger. But for Matthew Fainor, ‘20, it can also offer beauty.

Fainor launched a project called Wearables, an idea that explores biofabrication and its different interactions with everyday objects.

Fainor has had an interest in biofabrication—the use of biomedically-based technology to manufacture products outside of the scope of medicine—from a young age. He encountered this interest when he was exposed to the idea of combining biology with fabrication from a television show.

“I was like, ‘Wow, not only is it super sustainable and earth-friendly in a green way to manufacture, it’s science fiction meeting reality,’” Fainor said.

Fainor carried out these ideas through his studies. He joined the Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences (IDEAS) program to focus his education on biomaterials engineering and arts, and product design.

He fortified his ideas through lab experience with Dr. Lesley Chow, an assistant professor of bioengineering and materials science and engineering.

Fainor said learning how to use biofabrication in the lab allowed him to integrate all his ideas.

He has been assisting Chow in her research for the past five months. Chow’s research focuses on developing implantable biomaterials that are designed to help the body heal its own tissue.

Fainor approached Chow in fall 2018 with an interest in working with her. Fainor then proceeded to enter a thorough interviewing process and had to be accepted by every member of Chow’s team.

“(Fainor) passed with flying colors,” Chow said. “Everyone was very enthusiastic to have him on board.”

He joined her 10-week summer program and has been a part of the lab ever since. 

Fainor said biofabrication is an inherently more sustainable way to manufacture products. He hopes he can make a difference by furthering its use in practice.

“Wearables is what I refer to as everything I do,” Fainor said, “I am interested in making products that interact with our bodies in different ways.”

Wearables are accessories, clothing or even jewelry—the concept expands into many different areas. UTOPIA is the most recent project Fainor has worked on in association with Wearables.

Through UTOPIA, Fainor’s vision is to recontextualize kitchen knives outside of their common environment and onto people’s bodies as wearable statements.

“It is a nod back to an art movement called dadaism,” Fainor said.

Dadaism was an art movement introduced around World War I with the vision to ridicule the absurdity of existence through artistic satire. Fainor said he creates his designs relative to dadaism. 

Jada Jackman, ‘20, a close friend of Fainor’s, has modeled his art.

Fainor said she was a perfect model for his work because of her theatre background. 

Jackman is the president of the Mustard and Cheese Drama Society and a member of the Bad Company hip-hop group.

“I think Matthew is a very creative person in all aspects of life,” Jackman said. “He is always pushing the envelope and I really like that about him.”

Fainor creates different pieces using multiple techniques and creates the vision he wants to present through photoshoots.

“He gave me the pieces to wear and dressed me up in his vision,” Jackman said. “It was very avant-garde and exciting.”

However, UTOPIA is only one project showcased in Wearables.

Fainor said other projects also challenge contextualized norms in modern-day settings, which speaks to his passion for creativity and dedication.

“He knows who he is and it’s nice to see that sureness of self, he’s very kind and unique and has an idea of the type of person he wants to be,” Chow said.

Fainor said he is most interested in the products and objects people interact with everyday—particularly, clothing and textiles.


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