Leather grown in a lab; parkas made from protein; and textiles printed from algae are a few examples of how designers are using synthetic biology to craft a more sustainable future for fashion. Just as nylon and other chemically, engineered synthetic fabrics shaped the fashion industry in the 1950s and 60s, the next material revolution is poised to combine biology and chemistry to offer something undisputedly new and different.
Below are four young companies engineering the future of sustainable fashion creating the most powerful mix of nature and technology.
Suzanne Lee, the Creative Chief Officer of Modern Meadow, has a built a reputation on being a thought leader on the future of fashion. Her book “Fashioning the Future : Tomorrow’s Wardrobe” is hands down my favorite book on fashion futurism and remains relevant today.
Modern Meadow recently closed a $40M series B round to commercialize biofabricated leather grown from collagen from an animal’s cells and engineered to custom structural and aesthetic requirements.
Spiber has an ambitious mission statement: To make a huge impact on the world by “maximizing things that bring goodness to others.” What this translates too is a lofty endeavor to use proteins to create the next generation of sustainable materials. Unlike Modern Meadow, Spiber is investigating synthetic spider silk in hopes to translate the complex combination of amino acids into an industrial material.
Their first prototype created on a manufacturing line is the Moon Parka made in collaboration with North Face. Made with spider fibroin-based protein material QMONOS, the Moon Parka is designed to endure the harsh conditions of the south pole.
MuSkin is another leather alternative made from mushrooms. The material feels like suede and boasts performance properties such as breathability and is a natural water repellent.
The best part is that material is available today and can be purchased here.
BioBots is a 3D bioprinter that can print tissues. The machine uses a variety of available bioinks that work with a various cell types. The cost of BioBot is around 10K making tissue printing relatively affordable.
Lastly, if you’re curious to grow your own microbial cellulose, here is a video to get you started: