Stella McCartney Thinks This Technology Will Save The World

PHOTO BY LISA WASSMANN Stella designed the stunning brown knitted parachute pant and brown knit bodysuit, both made of 100% man-made spider silk, produced in @BoltThreads‘ labs in Emeryville, CA

 

The moment Stella McCartney said, “this is the future… this will save our planet, this approach that Bolt Threads has is the approach we’re going to have to take to everything,” I knew that this went beyond just marketing the rich-brown, Microsilk™ bodysuit and parachute-pant on display. We were on the top floor of her new Madison Avenue store in Manhattan celebrating her partnership with the hi-tech biofabricators who’ve used science and imagination to make spider-silk without spiders. Bolt Threads CEO Dan Widmaier, with some modesty, agreed that “there’s hunger for innovation in this space, to change the status quo, make it more sustainable, and enable new things to happen”.

I’m wearing my Bolt Threads tie, Brave GentleMan outfit, chatting with guests from Best Made and Refinery 29 at the Stella McCartney x Bolt party.

 

 

I’d been following developments in biofabrication for several years, writing articles about it, speaking about it on panels and in guest lectures across North America and Europe, including it in my curriculum at Parsons, attending conferences and taking meetings with scientists working on these innovations. The reason I’ve been so excited about this technology is because it has the potential to change the way we make everything and to resolve some of our most pressing challenges concerning sustainability and ethics in fashion.

It blew me away.” – Stella McCartney

Joshua Katcher, Stella McCartney & Dan Widmaier
When it came to working with the material, McCartney exclaimed, “I couldn’t believe it … I was not expecting the touch and the handle that I experienced immediately. It was silk! It blew me away.” But, while it biologically is silk, no worms were involved… and by involved, I mean killed by the billions. Most people don’t like to think about the fact that silk worms are boiled alive inside of their cocoons in order to make silk (if they allow the moth to emerge, the single-strand of the cocoon is broken, and the silk is rough and less valuable). But, as Stella quipped, “I think and hope that very quickly this is an irrelevant conversation, and that the idea of boiling silkworms is like ‘what? they did what’?”

 

Conversing with Stella McCartney and Dan Widmaier, CEO of Bolt Threads 

 

 

There is something deeply tragic and ironic about such a small, fragile creature eating and molting, eating and molting, eating a molting – working toward building a beautiful and safe place in which to morph into a final, triumphant form, only to be killed so that we can steal that magic and transform through fashion. While the 5,000 year-long plight of farmed silkworms is not at the forefront of everyone’s mind, it is significant in many ways.

Silk is perceived to be a sustainable fiber, but recent data from the Pulse of the Fashion Industry report shows that silk is actually the second worst material for the environment from a cradle-to-gate analysis, just behind cow leather. This data is surprising, but it’s also more motivation to replace the ways we’ve been making textiles with something far better that requires no boiling of little beings and has far less ecological impacts.

Bodysuit designed by Stella McCartney using Bolt Threads biofabricated silk

 

 

I imagine a future where no animals have to be bred, confined or killed in order to have leather, fur, silk or feathers – and if Bolt can fabricate spider-silk proteins, they’re clearly not going to be stopping there! Widmaier points out that “there’s five scalable fibers in the world, and what we’re proposing at Bolt is not only a sixth… but effectively an infinite number thereafter. And I think that’s an unimaginably different future, for not just fashion, but all of our consumer society.”

“I think that’s an unimaginably different future, for not just fashion, but all of our consumer society.” – Dan Widmaier, CEO of Bolt Threads

The potential from a design perspective is also incredibly exciting. “This is super sexy,” says McCartney. “I find the conversation between technology and what we’re doing in fashion is one of the most exciting things… I get less excited about a new silhouette or new color to put down a runway… This is, to me, the sexiest thing people can do right now.” And that message is getting through to big decision makers in the fashion world. Attendees at this celebration included curators at the MoMA, where a dress that Stella and Bolt made together is currently on display through January 28 at the museum’s, “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” exhibit. New York Fashion Week founder and director of the FIT Foundation Fern Mallis was also in attendance, as was SVP and Global EIC of Yahoo, Martha Nelson, world-renowned choreographer Jonah Bokaer, Michelle Obama’s stylist Meredith Koop, and Fast Company’s EIC Robert Safian. Designers from the brand Best Made, which was recently acquired by Bolt Threads, were also celebrating there, with collaborative products coming quickly down the biofab pipeline.

Back side of the Stella McCartney x Bolt Threads dress that is currently on display at MoMA.

“This is, to me, the sexiest thing people can do right now.” -Stella McCartney

“We all fantasize about the magnificent things that will come in the future,” says Stella. Something as significant as the industrial revolution is in the works here, and it’s so badly needed. “The fashion industry to me is extraordinarily old-fashioned,” she insists. “History is made to be changed and the fashion industry has got to do so.”

For more information, visit boltthreads.com

LAZLO

LAZLO
lazlo.co

Behind the Label

We’ve set up shop in Detroit, where we’re hiring men who were trained to sew in prison and paying them a living wage.

We use the best materials available, like organic cotton, to make products that we want to wear every day, and we’re building them to last.

We aren’t doing it alone: from partnering with the Michigan Department of Corrections on hiring, to developing fabrics with a mill in LA that shares our commitment to quality, it’s a team effort.

In short, we’re doing our best to build a company that we all can feel excited to be a part of. We’ve tried to keep business simple. Invest in your employees, invest in your community and make products you feel great about. Some companies see this as a burden. We see it as an opportunity.

Cheers,
Christian & Kathryn Birky

VEGEA

VEGEA
vegeacompany.com

VEGEA is a innovative vegetal material produced through a specific processing of fibers and oils contained in grape marc: a fully natural raw material consisting of the grape skins, stalks and seeds obtained from wine making.

VEGEA maximizes the value of the land and Its resources. It is the new Made in Italy combining two great Italian excellences: Fashion and Wine, both worldwide known as style icons for the high quality of their products and the long artistic and manufacturing tradition.

It is the new way to be fashionable and eco-friendly at the same time.Currently, Italy is the largest wine producer since about the 18% of the global wine production is made in Italy, this makes our Country the ideal one for VEGEA’s manufacturing.

MYCOWORKS

MYCOWORKS
mycoworks.com

We are a team of creative engineers, designers, and scientists. We are working together to solve today’s greatest challenges with products made from mycelium, a rapidly renewable natural resource. Our discoveries are foundational to the field of mycotecture and draw from over 20 years of research into designing and engineering mycelium materials.

Along with our visionary partners and customers, MycoWorks is building a better world with nature’s best tools.

PIÑATEX

PIÑATEX
ananas-anam.com/pinatex

 

Ananas Anam has developed an innovative, natural and sustainable non-woven textile called Piñatex™ made from pineapple leaves fibres. Piñatex has evolved from seven years of R&D to create a natural textile from waste plant fibres.

Piñatex harnesses advanced technologies to create a totally sustainable high performance natural textile. We carried out the original development leading to Piñatex™ in the Philippines. Its finishing, research and continuing development are now being undertaken in the UK and Spain.

 

Piñatex provides new additional income for farmers while creating a vibrant new industry for pineapple growing countries.

Piñatex fibres are the by-product of the pineapple harvest. No extra land, water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce them.

Piñatex involves a patented pending technology that protects both the process and the finished material.