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.”

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Bear Hats, Covered Feet

Terra Plana’s new vegan range includes some sharp, organic canvas and eco-PU footwear. Thanks to reader Tyson for the tip!

Dark Brown ClaudiusBlack Claudius

Stella McCartney defends bears! Bearskin hats have been worn since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 where they were taken as a badge of honour by the Grenadier Guards when they defeated Napoleon’s bearskin-wearing Imperial Guard – but not for long is PETA and Stella McCartney have their say. A Hint Magazine Article today covered Stella’s “relentless crusade for critter-friendly fashion.”

PETA's faux-fur version of the bearskin.

The dashing, discerning, Dan Matthews showcases the Faux-Bearskin that PETA and Stella are pitching to the Palace to save bears’ lives. Why the synthetic version, you ask? Because it often takes a whole bear to make one hat! Royally gross. There’s no good excuse.

“McCartney is partnering with PETA to give those vigilant palace guards a fur-conscious makeover, swapping their bear fur hats with synthetic versions. (Going naked instead of wearing fur is not an option, apparently).”

Check our for more.

Biz Stone’s Hoe Down & Must-Know Designers

• The final part to my Top 20 Eco Designers Special is up over at Hint Magazine. The final installment features Stella McCartney, Melissa Plastic Dreams, Collection Pas, Trousers London, and Loomstate.

• I shot a video interview with the brains behind Collection Pas, featured in the above article, at their Soho office. Check back later his week for the video interview with founder Pierre Andre Senizergues (pro skater, Etnies founder, exec. producer 11th Hour) and designer Pierluigi Pucci!• Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and his wife went vegan in 2001 after visiting Farm Sanctuary. Now, Biz will be a presenter on May 1 & 2nd at Farm Sanctuary’s California Shelter for their annual Country Hoe Down. If you are on the left coast, get over to the farm and say hello to Biz (in 140 characters or less).

Lionhearts & Battle Cries: 20 Lines for 2010

by Joshua Katcher
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Tevas with socks. Cargo Pants. Slogan tees. Let’s face it, people who care about ecosystems, animals, and worker’s rights aren’t typically celebrated for their sartorial poise. Likewise, most designers who care about form, function, and aesthetics aren’t typically known for their environmental wisdom or empathy; Fur coats, leather everything, toxic cotton, sweatshops.

There is new breed of designer, though, not so easily written off, who can turn old televisions into jaw-dropping shoes, who foster relationships with organic cotton farmers in developing countries, who invest in research and development of warm, biodegradable, recycled, cruelty-free textiles, whose aesthetic vision is not hampered by the challenges of navigating ethical dilemmas, and who – armed with tencel, lenpur, hemp, recycled fabrics, faux-fur, soda-bottle ultrasuede, and organics – aren’t afraid of challenging the tragic credo set by heritage brands.  In a culture where the iconography of the rebel is tied up in so many embarrassingly common and mainstream social, environmental and ethical muddles, these true iconoclasts are redefining cool, and reinvigorating the lost meaning of dressing like a dissident.

1. Vaute Couture. Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart is the prefect example of a designer who dreamed big. Her line went from a fantasy (gorgeous, eco, vegan winter coats that can handle Chicago in February) to reality. The line looks as amazing as it is warm and ethical; 100% Cruelty-free, sustainable, and fair-labor. Vaute Couture took over 8 months of fabric research and development and launched just last year, but has already garnered a host of celeb fanatics from Emily Deschanel, to Alicia Silverstone, and Ginnifer Goodwin. The men’s line launches August 2010.

Continue reading “Lionhearts & Battle Cries: 20 Lines for 2010”

Rape of Africa in “A Bid to Save the Earth.”

David LaChapelle’s “Rape of Africa” is not supposed to sit well with you. The piece is the photographer’s first official ‘art’ piece (not for a magazine), and it references Botticelli’s Venus and Mars while depicting many of the horrors endured by Africans, like diamond mining. This piece will be up for auction at Christies’ “A Bid to Save the Earth” auction, April 22, the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, benefiting four nonprofit organizations: Oceana, Conservation International, the Central Park Conservancy and the National Resources Defense Council. Supporters are invited to participate online, in real time, via Christies LIVE™. View the electronic catalogue online starting April 8.

Central Park Conservancy - central to the parkConservation International - People need nature to thriveOceanaNRDC

More a social justice piece than an environmental piece, this photograph is especially interesting because LaChapelle takes a serious stab at Damien Hirst’s infamous diamond-crusted skull. The skull sits below the feet of a child in the photograph, and is deservingly reduced a symbol of the rape of Africa. Strangely though, Hirst, who first became known for his chopped-up-animals-cum-installations, is also contributing to the auction. Needless to say, he just doesn’t strike me as the Earth-Day kind of guy, so I’ll be interested to see what he contributes and has to say. Of course there are other, more deadly mining operations in Africa, like that of coltan in Congo, that has resulted in the deadliest conflict since WWII, and sitting beside Naomi Campbell are farm animals, which suggest the failure of programs like Oxfam and Heifer International as well as making the statement that, like domesticated farm animals, Naomi is a chattel. Across from Naomi sits a sleeping white man guarded by young African boys who will do his dirty work.

On what will be the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, bidders will vie for lots such as a private lunch with Vera Wang; Giorgio Armani evening ensembles and two tickets to Vanity Fair’s Oscars after party; his and her bespoke suits from Stella McCartney, as well as a private fitting with the designer; Girard-Perregaux watches; Valextra luggage; Harry Winston jewelry; David LaChapelle photography, and a bevy of other luxury items. Artists Damien Hirst and Keith Tyson have also donated original art for the event. Christopher Burge will drop the gavel during the auction and there also will be bidding via

Read the whole article at WWD

Special thanks to Lee Crater at Hint Magazine for the tip!