And that is before the work of private and public scientific research institutions are taken into account.
Silk produced in a laboratory, for example, would not exist without the breakthroughs of the last 30 years that have enabled scientists to perfect ways to edit and replicate the DNA of living organisms.
After studying spiders’ DNA and their webs, Bolt Threads’ engineers developed similar proteins that are injected into yeast and sugar and then subjected to a proprietary fermentation process. The resulting liquid silk is turned into a fiber through a wet-spinning process that creates strands that then can be knitted into fabric.
Rivals, which are using similar technology but different production methods, have not produced marketable products yet either. The Japanese company Spiber has an agreement with the North Face, the American activewear company (in 2016, they developed a Moon Parka prototype). And AMSilk, a German company, has partnered with Adidas on products that they will not identify but say are expected to go on sale next year.
Adidas, however, s producing sneakers made with plastics recovered from beaches and oceanfront communities, part of a product line developed through its partnership with the activist anti-plastic group Parley for the Oceans. (Ms. McCartney, an Adidas collaborator, provided some of the designs.)
Recycled fruit waste is another promising substance for the creation of alternative fabrics. The Italian company Orange Fiber provided the material for Ferragamo’s capsule scarf collection. Ananas Anam, based at the Royal College of Art in London, uses pineapple leaf fibers to create a nonwoven leatherlike material called Piñatex and brands like Edun, the sustainable fashion label owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, are creating items from it.
And mycelium, the rootlike fiber of mushrooms, is being processed as a leather substitute by MycoWorks, a San Francisco start-up. But some specialists say the material, which looks like suede, needs to be tested for durability.
In addition to bio-fabricated materials, the Stella McCartney brand and its founding partner, the luxury group Kering, are investing in ways to recycle fashion items and use fewer resources, such as…