Science Opens Up A New Web Of Opportunities For Fashion

It’s National Science Week! So there’s no better time to investigate the exciting and unbelievable discoveries in science that will change the way we make and wear clothes.

Science is moving at a rapid rate, and much faster than many people are aware. From biohackers to biotechnology, breakthroughs are occurring in every field. Different industries are merging like never before, and new innovative science is set to impact fashion in substantial ways.

Tech Crunch hosted an interview with two world-class scientific and engineering companies to talk about biofabrication – what it is, why it matters, and when it’s coming.

Image from Modern Meadow
Image from Modern Meadow

Emerging Technologies Editor, Lora Kolodny, talked to Andras Forgacs, the Co-Founder and CEO of Modern Meadow, a Brooklyn based company making significant steps towards growing real leather. That is, growing it in a lab. No animals slaughtered.

Growing real leather? Buttery soft, long-lasting, real leather? Well, it may seem unreal, deemed by Kolodny herself as something seemingly “sci-fi”, but Modern Meadow is using biology to construct the same protein structure found in leather to create… Well, leather.

The toll that the 100 billion dollar leather industry continues to take on our earth, resources and animals is an almost incomprehensible one. The supply and demand for leather reaps a series of ramifications. It starts with the slaughtering of animals, who are stripped of their hide. The skin is packed and transported to the tannery where approximately 50 percent is discarded due to size, colour or irregularities. Chemicals are then used to treat them.

Alexander McQueen: Spring/Summer 2010
Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2010 Collection had a distinctly Sci-Fi Feel.

The toxicity of these chemicals means that the land around and underneath the tannery is poisoned, rendering the land useless for agricultural purposes. Toxic waste also pollutes the waterways as this is where the discharge is drained.

It goes without saying that the technology behind Modern Meadow, one biofabrication company among many, is a game changer. And if you’re not excited enough already, then hear this: Forgacs announced that they are starting to build up pilot production, and expects that the product will be on the market in a number of single digit years.

Even Leonardo DiCaprio is getting in on the action. DiCaprio is one of the investors in Diamond Foundry, a Silicon Valley Start-Up created by Martin Roscheisen, founder of Nanosolar. Forget mining for diamonds, this company is working towards growing them in a lab. Not synthetic diamonds. The real deal.

Another company utilising natural biology to create fabric is Bolt Threads, Co-Founded by Dan Widmaier. Lightweight, breathable, soft and sustainable, Bolt Threads are also using labs to create… Gulp. Spider silk. Now before you freak out, hear them out.

An individual spider spins six different silks. Widmaier explains that they have different properties according to the proteins, like being silky soft, “stretchier than spandex”, or super strong. Tailored to your demands, and more sustainable that traditional fabrics like cotton or regular silk, it makes perfect sense.

Photo: By Kokopa
Image By Kokopa.

Like Modern Meadow, Bolt Threads is undergoing a rapid growth phase, meaning you should expect things from them sooner rather than later. Their website says they are “planning to change your clothes in 2016.” Could we really be giving each other some kick-ass spider silk Pyjamas for Christmas?

Hearing about the incredible enterprises made possible by science, the future looks suddenly brighter. With the scary and speculative stories always circulating about science’s controversial powers, it’s inspiring to know that there are companies using science for good rather than evil. Maybe there’s faith in humanity after all.