How Biofabrication Is Changing The Future Of Fabrics

Sustainable fashion is no longer the realm of a few small companies. You only have to do a Google search to bring up a variety of retailers that embrace sustainable and ethical fashion.
The sustainable fashion movement is based on innovation and thinking outside the box, so it makes sense that a new frontier would emerge from this movement.

The new frontier of sustainable fashion is based on biofabrication. Scientists are developing methods of building fabrics like leather made without cows and silk made from spider webs, without the spiders.

The New Leather

The company Modern Meadow has discovered a way to grow collagen, the main substance in cow leather, in yeast cells.

Using yeast cells to grow other substances is not new; yeast can be used to produce artificial insulin. This is the same process, but instead of insulin, collagen is cultivated, extracted and processed into “leather sheets”.

The New Silk

While most of the silk is produced by silkworms, researchers have been working to reproduce spider silk. Spider silk, known for its strength and glossy sheen cannot be mass produced – spiders will cannibalize their co-workers.

The company Bolt Threads have discovered how to mimic the way spiders spin a protein into a silk fiber. The scientists use a water-based solution to create silk from proteins, so the process itself does not use harmful chemicals.

Spider silk is still not at the level of mass production, so garments made from the material are extremely expensive. However, this fabric has the potential to change the world of fashion. Stella McCartney has partnered with Bolt Threads to design a dress made from the silk.

The Future of Biofabrication

As more companies become interested in using these materials, we may see a future where cows are no longer needed to produce leather. Time will tell if leather made from single cell organisms and spider protein silk are as durable as the animal-based originals.

For now, the science of biofabrication offers a sustainable option to wasteful fabric production, and a future that is cruelty free.


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