Bolt Threads: Engineering a Sustainable Future With Vegan Bio Fabrics

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I wrote the following article, which originally appeared on Vilda Magazine


In a retail market that is becoming responsive to the demands of consumers who are increasingly more eco-conscious in their purchasing decisions and are growing more interested in fashion innovation, there is still room for considerable improvement for environmentally friendly options when it comes to products like shoes and accessories, which are often made from conventional leather or petroleum-based materials.

While it’s exciting that demand for vegan products and fashion innovation is on the rise; evident in the fact that companies are intentionally labeling products as “vegan-friendly,’” it honestly doesn’t feel like much of a triumph purchasing a vegan-friendly handbag or pair of shoes when it’s made from plastic.  Knowing what we know about how terrible plastics are for our planet, particularly marine animals, one could hardly say that those vegan bags are cruelty-free.

Leather – an environmental hazard

But, from an environmental standpoint, leather is no better.

The leather industry is incredibly resource-intensive and damaging to our environment. Tannery effluents containing chromium and other chemicals have rendered waterways toxic, and widespread illnesses in communities surrounding leather tanneries is commonplace.

These industries need to be disrupted.  Recycling and upcycling materials into consumer goods is a great alternative to using conventional leathers and virgin plastics, but it’s time to move away from these materials all together.  Brands need access to quality, high-performance, novel textiles.

And this is where some innovative brands might just be the disruptors we need to turn the fashion and textiles industries on their heads….or, at the very least, open our eyes to the role that biotechnology can play in driving the future of fashion.

Creativity meets sustainability

Bolt Threads, a materials innovations company, draws their inspiration from nature, which they believe holds the key to solving many of our problems.

Recognising that the textile industry is rife with waste and sustainability issues, they’ve made it their mission to create lab-grown materials that are sustainable without sacrificing performance, quality, or aesthetic. And because they grow their materials in a highly controlled environment, they are able to manipulate them to meet targeted needs, like stretch or water-resistance, for example.

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The brand’s Microsilk material is a silk alternative inspired by silk proteins found in nature – the brand crafts the materials by putting genes into yeast and using yeast, sugar and water in a fermentation process, which results in a versatile yarn that can be spun into different fabrics.

After developing the ground-breaking Microsilk and working with sustainably inclined fashion brands such as Stella McCartney and Patagonia, Bolt Threads are ready for a new frontier: developing a sustainable, resistant and vegan-friendly fabric made from a vegan food staple, mushrooms.

Head to VILDA MAGAZINE to continue reading